Webster County Crime Stoppers

‘Help us get the bad guys’

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Fort Dodge Police Chief Kevin Doty, left, speaks with Webster County Crime Stoppers board member Joe Condon following a recent board meeting.

When a local law enforcement agency needs help solving a crime, or if there’s someone with a warrant who can’t be located, there’s usually one group of people in Webster County that the officers turn to for help.

That group is Webster County Crime Stoppers.

For almost 35 years, Crime Stoppers has been aiding law enforcement in any way they can, whether it be by providing money for equipment, offering rewards for wanted individuals, or even publishing photos of suspects who have a warrant for their arrest.

Crime Stoppers board member John Bruner was one of the original members of the group when it first started back in 1982.

It began when several community members and law enforcement officers got together and decided to form a group dedicated to fighting crime.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Webster County Crime Stoppers President Dan Streit, right, listens while board secretary Sandy Markey, left, takes notes during a recent board meeting in Fort Dodge. Crime Stoppers has been a part of Webster County for nearly 35 years.

Bruner said two of those that got the idea started were then-Webster County Sheriff Chuck Griggs and Herb Conlon, who was the mayor of Fort Dodge at that time.

When Crime Stoppers first started, Bruner said the group wasn’t sure what they were going to do.

“We didn’t know what we could do, we didn’t know what we should do,” he said. “We didn’t have any money and we knew we needed to have money to keep our programs running efficiently. But back then, we didn’t have any programs.”

“But we were Webster County Crime Stoppers.”

It started out small.

“There were about six or seven of us that made up that board,” he said. “We had no formal agenda. We didn’t have any participation on the board by any of the law enforcement leaders. We didn’t realize the importance of that at the time.”

But that’s changed over the past three decades.

Today, Webster County Crime Stoppers has upwards of 30 board members who meet once a month at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites.

“Since then, we have grown into a very efficient board, which involves not only the citizens on the board, but representatives from all the law enforcement agencies in Webster County,” Bruner said.

Besides law enforcement agencies, Bruner said representatives from the Fort Dodge Fire Department, Fort Dodge City Council, Webster County Board of Supervisors, the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, Webster County attorney’s office and others also attend the monthly board meetings.

But Bruner said Crime Stoppers is more than simply board meetings.

They also actively work to prevent crime in Webster County in a variety of ways.

Probably the most successful way, according to Bruner, is the monthly Most Wanted list.

Every month, photographs of individuals wanted throughout Webster County are printed on the list, along with any monetary rewards that are being offered for them.

Bruner said the Most Wanted list started in 2000. And since 2003, Bruner said Crime Stoppers has kept statistics on how successful the list is.

As of early June, Bruner said approximately 1,500 people have been arrested from the Most Wanted list thanks to people who submitted information through Crime Stoppers.

That has led to more than $150,000 in rewards being paid out.

Bruner said the Most Wanted list is so successful, sometimes those who have active warrants will turn themselves in after either seeing themselves on the list or hearing from someone that they were on it.

Dan Streit, who is the president of the Webster County Crime Stoppers board, said he believes the group has had a positive impact on the county.

“I feel, anyway, that the citizens feel like it’s a safer place to live,” he said, adding that Fort Dodge is a place where people want to see their families come and stay.

Streit said Crime Stoppers’ growth over the years is significant.

“Now we’ve got a board of about 30 volunteers, 30 community people, county-wide people,” he said. “We’ve got close to 200 members, and I think we have a good working relationship with law enforcement from all points.”

He and Bruner both said they’ve had positive feedback from law enforcement agencies about the cooperation between them and Crime Stoppers.

“We just try and assist wherever we can as Crime Stoppers,” Streit said.

Among the recent ways Crime Stoppers has contributed to law enforcement include providing funds to the Gowrie Police Department to purchase a body camera and dashboard camera, as well as providing money to pay for meals during the Fort Dodge/Webster County Citizens Academy.

That money comes from its membership.

Bruner said Crime Stoppers, which is a 401.3 (c) nonprofit, will accept any donation.

Those who donate at least $50 receive a plaque recognizing them for their membership.

“We have another level of giving, the top level of giving,” Bruner said. “It’s called the Top Gun and that is $500 or more.”

Bruner said there are about 25 Top Gun members of Crime Stoppers.

He added that Crime Stoppers also gives public presentations to service, church and school groups, or any other group that would like to hear a presentation.

Crime Stoppers also recently started a Facebook page, where people can learn more information about the group and its mission.

Bruner said Crime Stoppers’ slogan is a simple one that sums up its mission.

“Help us get the bad guys.”