BOLO lists (Be On Look Out list)

Lots of times TI’s speculate that they are on some sort of list aka no fly list and that what makes them a target. Targeted individuals might be placed on some lists, but i doubt they are targeted because of being on the lists.

While reading Eileen’s blog (only available through she mentioned BOLO (Be On the Look Out) list:

When I was last in Afghanistan at the COIN Academy, military intelligence issued daily BOLO lists of suspicious activity to look out for. (BOLO stands for “Be on the lookout for”.) Men in white corollas always made the list. This was of course problematic and indicative of the vague and often inactionable intelligence the Americans collected, since half the population drove white Corollas, but that’s for another post

This funny tidbit prompted me to check if anything of this sort exists in western world. It’s been around for a long time as demonstrated in this Miami newspaper article from 1971 (as of june 2016 it appears google orwelled it – here is local screenshot). Something like “wanted list”.  NJ has one (local copy), but it’s related to automatic license plate readers (ALPR):

D. BOLO list – (also known as a hot list) is a compilation of one or more license plates, or partial license plates, of a vehicle or vehicles for which a BOLO situation exists that is programmed into an ALPR so that the device will alert if it captures the image of a license plate that matches a license plate included on the BOLO list. The term also includes a compilation of one or more license plates, or partial license plates that is compared against stored license plate data that had previously been scanned and collected by an ALPR, including scanned license plate data that is stored in a separate data storage device or system.

The BOLO list itself is one thing, but the data gathered from the field is another issue as it can be used to build activity profile of the person over the time.

Surveillance of license plates by MPD
Surveillance of license plates by MPD

So who has access to your location data ( Anyone who asks for it, according to Bob Sykora, chief information officer for the Minnesota Board of Public Defense. Sykora warned in a memo this June that location data retained by police is currently public. That means it could be obtained via record requests by data miners or other members of the public, he wrote, enabling burglars to learn someone’s daily routine or ex-spouses to track former partners.

The article talks only about Minnesota as policies are not set and differ from state to state and city to city. It is clearly big problem and has high abuse potential (

“Now that we see someone’s patterns in a graphic on a map in a newspaper, you realize that person really does have a right to be secure from people who might be trying to stalk them or follow them or interfere with them,” said Bob Sykora, chief information officer for the Minnesota Board of Public Defense, who recommended the reclassification.

Ohio has BOLO list (local copy), but apparently it’s a bit different than NJ:

On May 27, 2007, Sergeant Aaron Zimmaro of the Springboro Police Department was on patrol when he heard on his radio a discussion among fellow police officers regarding a nearby suspicious vehicle. This vehicle, driven by Dixon, was of particular concern to officers because it was on a “be on the lookout” (BOLO) list due to Dixon’s possible drug activities.

California (local copy) and Ontario (local copy) BOLOS appears related to vehicle plates:

Performs program promotion duties by preparing and hand delivering to deadline weekly “Warrant of the Week” and monthly “Crime of the Week” media releases to media outlets through the Region of Waterloo. Prepares monthly Stolen Vehicle List advertisement to deadline for inclusion in various medium and publications by collecting theft and vehicle information from the Be On The Lookout (BOLO) list and CPIC.

Military Be-on-the-Lookout Alerts (

6-8.       Be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) alerts are routinely sent out by Army and civilian LE agencies. BOLO alerts are used to provide information to, and request assistance from, military and civilian LE organizations, military units, and, at times, the general public about specific individuals, vehicles, events, or equipment. These alerts are typically used when the subject matter is time-sensitive and a heightened awareness by all available personnel is requested to facilitate the appropriate action. BOLO alerts may be distributed in a printed format, over appropriate information networks, or transmitted over radio nets, depending on the breadth of distribution, time sensitivity, or other mission and environmental factors.

6-9.       BOLO alerts may be general or very specific, but they should contain, when possible, enough information to prevent numerous “false positive” reports and should provide reporting and disposition instructions. These instructions should include any known dangers associated with the subject of the BOLO alert. For example, a BOLO alert for a grey BMW automobile to all military police units operating in Germany or an orange and white taxi in Iraq would be ineffective and would likely result in an extremely high number of “sightings.” This type of general information might also be ignored by military police personnel for the same reason. Additional information about the driver, body damage to the vehicle, or other specific details would reduce the false positives and increase the value of what is reported. In some instances, the amount of known information is limited to one or more identifying data points. This is common in expeditionary environments where a list of names may be the only data available or immediately following a crime or incident when only rough descriptions of suspects or few witnesses are available.


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