We are still living in the world that Walsh, and “America’s Most Wanted,” helped build: a paranoid populace that believes crime is everywhere and can only be solved through relentless policing.

As the host of Fox’s America’s Most Wanted from 1988 through 2011, Walsh would fuel the nation’s crime panic and reinforce his position as the country’s foremost proponent of harsh anti-crime measures. With its grim, gritty tone and dramatic reenactments of violent acts, the show sought to induce fear in the American public, alerting viewers to rare, sensational events and thus distorting their conceptions of crime and danger. Walsh’s status as a bereaved parent and a well-known anti-crime crusader also propelled him into the halls of power (despite his professed distaste for the “backstabbers in the world of politics”), where he bent the ear of every U.S. president from Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama

The Walshes pressured federal policymakers to pass, and President Reagan to sign, the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984. These laws stemmed from the “stranger danger” panic that gripped the nation beginning in the early to mid-1980s. At the time, aggrieved parents, politicians, and talking heads claimed that 50,000 or more children fell victim to stranger abduction in the United States annually. (The actual figure was and remains somewhere around 100..


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