May 30, 2004
A loud blue line
By cops, for citizens: Blue Line Radio hosts take
on tough issues
The caller was in a tough spot. He had been arrested at a Jimmy Buffett
concert for possession of marijuana.
The drugs weren’t his, he told the hosts of Blue Line Radio, a locally
produced show that airs Saturdays. He’s never been in trouble before
and, well, he just didn’t know what to do about his predicament.
He was tuning in to The Big Talker on 106.3 WLTT-FM when Marc Benson and
his brother Tre turned their weekly law enforcement conversation to DWIs
– and the traffic stops that will undoubtedly be on the roadways
this Memorial Day weekend. The caller decided he could use their advice.
“I almost hate to tell you this,” Marc Benson told the caller.
“You know, lawyers. But that might be something you want to do.
I think it’s unfortunate sometimes we have to have attorneys. But
in something like this, there were probably so many arrests, some of the
cases are going to be dismissed.”
It’s the kind of advice that thousands of listeners tune in to hear
on Blue Line Radio, simulcast on both Big Talker outlets, 106.3 and 103.9
WWTB-FM. Since the show premiered on Feb. 21 as a one-hour program, not
only has the program expanded but the accompanying Web site has taken
There were 18,000 visitors to www.bluelineradio.com in April, Tre Benson
said, and they’ve had 23,000 hits in the past two weeks, he said.
“We must be doing something right,” he said.
It might have something to do with stories like the one about the “bike
dude” – someone Marc Benson ran across recently in his work
as a deputy sheriff in Pender County. The suspect, who has many aliases,
was allegedly terrorizing a campground in Rocky Point before taking off
into the woods.
That’s what people tell Marc Benson, a 24-year law-enforcement veteran,
they love about the show.
“They tell me ‘We love hearing the war stories,’Å¨”
he said. “ ‘We love hearing what’s really going on in
Blue Line is a forum for controversial and topical issues such as elder
abuse and identity theft. Tre Benson has a particular passion for discussing
“I can talk to a brick wall for hours,” Marc Benson said,
but he especially enjoys bringing to the forefront “anything to
do with kids.”
As for the audience, “traffic is the hot-button issue,” he
said. “If there was a chance, which hasn’t happened yet, that
we had zero to talk about. That’s all we’d have to say.”
Most of the callers are men, said Erica Fester, who produces the show
and is married to Tre Benson. And the callers are about 5-1 civilians
to police officers.
“There’s a need for a bridge between the public perception
of law enforcement and the reality,” Tre Benson said.
The show spotlights current criminal cases, such as the murder of University
of North Carolina at Wilmington student Jessica Lee Faulkner and the arrest
of Carolyn Ann Futrell, who was charged with killing her 7-year-old stepdaughter
Kayla Allen in Onslow County.
The Benson brothers will discuss headlines, incompetence and any other
topic related to law enforcement – but they try to stay away from
Child abuse and missing persons have been Blue Line subjects, as have
officers killed in the line of duty – a topic they addressed on
May 15, which coincided with National Police Week, May 9-15.
Each week, the Bensons take time to recognize fallen officers. And they
name a cop of the week during each show. That person gets a free dozen
doughnuts from Krispy Kreme.
There’s also a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) segment, which invites listeners
to help officers by keeping their eyes out for those wanted by the law.
“We take this very seriously, as if we were making money,”
Tre Benson said.
The Blue Line trio volunteers the two hours the show is on the air each
week – and the time they use to prepare for the show, search for
stories and statistics on the Internet, find and book guests, or do the
investigating they do into local criminal cases in a unofficial way.
Often Marc Benson has to swap a few hours with another deputy on Saturdays
to be able to make it to the Sea Comm Media offices on Cinema Drive by
4:30 p.m. to prepare for the 5 p.m. broadcast.
Sometimes, he doesn’t have time to change his uniform.
Tre Benson and Ms. Fester are film industry veterans and work on building
sets when they can. In recent weeks, they’ve been in Raleigh, working
on the set of a pilot for a series about childhood obesity called FIT
TV for the Discovery Channel and the U.S. Department of Health and Human
But each weekend, they’re back in Wilmington. Ms. Fester sits in
an office, screening calls and sending e-mails to the Benson brothers,
who sit in one of the darkened, insulated booths with Paul Knight, the
station’s general manager.
From their research, they’ve only found one similar program, Cop
Talk Radio, out of Seattle.
If they have their way, you’ll see more Blue Line efforts in the
future. The brothers have plans to expand their show into a television
“That’s a big dream,” said Tre Benson. Already, the
set is built and they’re raising funds.
They also want to add a crime map on the Web site where residents can
click and find their neighborhood and see where crime reports have been
made. They also have something in the works called a citizens academy,
another way for regular people to learn more about law enforcement.
They see the radio show and the Web site as just the first step –
but one they need to build. Blue Line Radio has the ability to reach more
600,000 people every week, “but if we have 6,000 listening to us
every week then we feel we have a success,” Tre Benson said.
Allison Ballard: 343-2376
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