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Radio-station posse helps catch crooks

June 2, 1997

HONOLULU (AP) _ Island scofflaws beware. ``The Posse″ is on your trail.

Rush-hour drivers in Oahu, armed with cellular phones and car radios, are acting like hundreds of beat cops whenever two popular disc jockeys call upon them to spring into action.

With the motto ``Have no fear, The Posse is here,″ they’ve helped the Honolulu Police Department quickly track down car thieves, purse-snatchers and missing children.

``Everyone helps because everyone has a kind of cops and robbers mentality,″ said KSSK-FM disc jockey Larry Price, who acts as command central along with fellow radio man Michael W. Perry. ``Catching these guys is a kind of a gleeful feeling.″

And being able to call in crimes anonymously also ``gives people the artificial courage to take on the criminal,″ Price said.

The first collar was five years ago, when Harlan Blass had his car stolen while he was buying cigarettes at a gas station. He called the KSSK-FM for help. The station broadcast the report, and drivers immediately began phoning in the thief’s every move.

Police caught the suspect within hours.

``We couldn’t solve a case that fast. Without `The Posse,′ we don’t know how many thousands of hours of investigative hours would be spent,″ said Sgt. Margot Tang, coordinator of the police department’s CrimeStoppers program.

Most of The Posse’s time is spent helping drivers avoid traffic tie-ups by calling in tips to the radio station during morning commutes. But they’re ready in case of emergencies.

Callers found Cora Banda’s elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, in an hour.

``I’m thankful someone was listening to KSSK. I was ecstatic they called in after spotting him. I wish other stations were doing this,″ Banda said.

Last year, The Posse reunited a mother with her 3-year-old daughter who had wandered away from home and ended up on a city bus. And a store owner who heard that a pet pig was missing in his area located the hog and called the station to let the owner know where to pick it up.

Police now regularly tune into the program, and KSSK has been contacted by law enforcement and radio stations across the country seeking advice on starting their own version of The Posse.

But Perry and Price say they’ve succeeded because their territory is so small, and they aren’t sure if the program would work elsewhere.

Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island, is only 44 miles long and 30 miles wide and has just two major freeways. That makes it hard for thieves to hide, and missing persons to not be seen.

And KSSK’s ``Perry and Price″ morning show has 40 percent of the morning audience, so their broadcasts capture the attention of many people. In most urban areas, drivers tune into dozens of different radio stations.

Still, The Posse provides a quick alternative to filing a police report.

Earlier this year, after Perry and Price told listeners to be on the look out for a con artist targeting elderly residents, a tip from a listener led police to the thief’s home.

Detectives found the man hiding in a closet of his apartment. The tipster was the con artist’s neighbor.

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