Busted Magazine: 20 pages of Twin Cities mug shots for just $1

They say print journalism is dying, but at least one national publication has recently decided to launch a Twin Cities edition. Of course, from an economic standpoint you might call Busted a counter-cyclical publication: the worse the economy gets, the more people might be tempted into lives of crime, producing more free content for the dollar-an-issue tabloid. Oh, didn't I mention? Busted publishes mug shots. Lots and lots of mug shots.

I couldn't quite believe it when I encountered the May issue in the SuperAmerica at Broadway and University in Northeast Minneapolis, so I paid my dollar for the privilege of opening the seal that prevents casual browsers from perusing the pages of Busted. It immediately occurred to me to write a story about the publication, but a little Googling revealed that journalists at local media outlets across the country have had the same idea. Some of the best detective work was done by Sacramento blogger Luke McReynolds, who discovered that Busted's unnamed owner is one Dan Oakley (he lists the publication on his LinkedIn profile) and that publisher Semi Valley Sound LLC, which is nominally based in Florida, "is incorporated in Delaware, America's corporate tax haven."

Busted sells advertising, but at least by the May issue ("Volume 2"), there were no metro area takers. So what you get is page after page of mug shots from Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, and Dakota counties, each one listing the subject's name and alleged offense. Special features include a foldout showcasing drunk drivers, a box spotlighting four oddly festive-looking faces, a page of active fugitives, and a back-cover "Beauty vs. Beast" page featuring hot female arrestees (DUI, marijuana possession) and some ugly male mugs (criminal sexual conduct, malicious punishment of a child). There are a couple of goofy-criminal stories (a Lake County woman was cited with contempt of court for wearing a t-shirt reading, "I Have the Pussy, So I Make the Rules") and "Sweet Spot," a column by staff writer Joseph Sweet. ("Your life, even if it isn't one-hundred percent peaches and cream, is freaking awesome." Why? Because you're protected by the First Amendment.)

A Busted debate could be had, but I'll leave that to others. The Pro side would tout Busted's crime-deterring potential and note that the vast majority of people featured in its pages brought public-domain infamy upon themselves by engaging in assault, robbery, and other serious crimes. (The wrongdoing of one alleged offender is vaguely designated "city ordinance." Was he caught in St. Paul with a sugar glider?) The Con side would note that it's unseemly—or, in the words of one of McReynolds's readers, outright "evil"—to profit by flaunting the misfortunes of others. The reader forwarded her criticism to Busted's Gmail account, eliciting the reply, "See you in hell you miserable hippocrate!"

It's certainly sobering to flip through the pages upon pages of miserable faces trapped in the newsprint stocks. Given that Busted is available in Northeast, we might hope it will be happened upon by an artist who will use its public-domain editorial content in a manner that's designed to inspire something beyond—in the words of the Busted Web site—"morbid curiosity."

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Jay Gabler's picture
Jay Gabler

Jay Gabler (@JayGabler) is a digital producer at The Current and Classical MPR. He was arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet from 2007-2013.



This is all completely public information. you can go onto any counties websites, see whose in jail and why they are in jail, bail information, etc. Just google the name of your county, followed by "inmate search" and you should surely find it. It is just one of the things that happens when you get arrested. All Busted is doing is going through those public record searches, and organizing it in a way that people seem to like, accompanies with some more in depth stories etc.

Men what has happen to our hearts?

I just heair this story from my friends Father.  He stated that the police came to his sons house in  the middle of the night. They came inside . To give him and his wife the news about there only child.  They had found him dead.  My friends father stated that the screams from his son woke the nabors.  They came over to find out what had happen.  Police said that he killed himself. He left a note that said he was ashamed of what had done.  The father told me that the picture was in some paper .

Purloined Government Documents

1. Did they ever pay for the government records?

There will be a charge of $24.00 against your credit card for each name search performed, regardless of search results."
Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Retrieved from https://web.fdle.state.fl.us/search/app/default

Not Right

I don't agree with this publication. My girlfriend was in it because she was arrested for an assault charge. However charges were never filed due to the fact the individual lied about the assault. It even said when she was booked into jail that the charges were pending. Now she has been put out to the public as a bad person when in fact she is not. Where is there an apology for the now false charges to show the public? I think we should look into a law suit since false information was published. People have rights and until proven guilty or even charged……………


Unfortunetly, I have been in this magazine.  I believe in the First Amendment, & I have excepted full responsibility for my actions.  I am aware that my actions hurt people around me & I will have to deal with these consequences for the rest of my life.  

People have lost touch with the American way.  Everyone is so quick to judge others around them & are willing to go out of their way to humiliate one another.  So much so that a member of the American Legion, mind you we are talking about a Vet, thought that it was his duty to discuss a picture with one of his underage employees.  The picture was of his mother!  

This is how our society is today! 

Busted somthing to think about

To all of you asking if it is ethical to post about someone's potential involvment in a crime or alleged acts, Yes it is. First off if you didn't want to be put in the paper you should not have been putting yourself in the position to be accused or wanted. Second I know people who have been in this and most the time if they have to resort to putting your photo in a publication its because you are not being forthrite and talking to authorities. Another point, Americas Most Wanted has done it for twenty years. As a final point why not read it sometime its hillarious. "Entertainment value stupidity is the limit". Ohh and for those of you saying it could be you oneday, has been falsley convicted at one point. innocent people prevail and are better for facing adversity.

Is it unethical of the Busted publishers to share this public-do


I don't even understand where the question is ???? If you can sit there & wholeheartedly tell us you feel it's fine to publish a picture of someone that says they have been BUSTED for child porn. meth, assault, pot, DWI, etc., that has not been found guilty in a court of law; then sir, you have lost touch with the ideals that America was founded on.

Unless this weekly rag publishes the persons picture with a retraction of being BUSTED if & when they have been found innocent in a court of law, then they should mind thier own.  Why isn't this published AFTER  someone has been found guilty, & there for truly have been BUSTED ?!  

The problem with this comes down to the meaning of BUSTED by definition & what the majority of the population perceive it to mean when they hear " Jay was BUSTED with Cocaine Monday night.

Perhaps a simple name change of the weekly rag would end any such debate.


Max Power

Innocent until proven guilty?

Um, I think you neglected to mention that some of these people aren't even guilty of anything.  Where are their rights?


I do refer to the subjects' offenses as "alleged." It's certainly true that many of the people in Busted will be, or have been, found innocent of the alleged offenses for which they were arrested. Is it unethical of the Busted publishers to share this public-domain information about arrests in this way? That is the question.

Law enforcement records are

Law enforcement records are not "public-domain information."

Never have been. Never will be.

These guys scrape the internet with special software to get arrest records from law enforcement websites. 

It Varies

Whether or not mugshots and arrest records are released into the public domain varies by jurisdiction. Busted publishes in jurisdictions—including Twin Cities metro counties—where mug shots are made public by law enforcement authorities. In other jurisdictions, for example New York City, these records are not routinely made public.