By PETER KASPARI
Messenger staff writer
Once a month, Webster County Crime Stoppers releases a poster showing photos and information on some of the most wanted alleged criminals in the county.
The posters have proven to be highly successful in the fight against crime in Webster County
Crime Stoppers has been publishing the posters since 2000. In that time they have led to the arrest of 81 percent of the people featured, according to John Bruner, Crime Stoppers membership chairman.
"We had also captured others (that weren't pictured), but the ones I kept track of were the ones who were pictured," he said. "That's somewhere between 1,200 and 1,300 bad guys that the poster has helped to capture."
Bruner said the monthly posters have also led to suspects surrendering, as well as others fleeing the county, and sometimes the state, to avoid being captured.
"It never ceases to amaze me," Bruner said. "Most of the time these people that call in the information know these wanted people, and sometimes they didn't even know the person was in trouble."
Over the past 12 years, Bruner said the most wanted program has undergone a few changes.
"We originally had five or six pictures with a few other names listed," he said. "The pictures were smaller than they are now, and were in black and white."
Now the list is two-sided and features color photos of 12 suspected criminals on one side. On the second side is information on rewards being offered for the unsolved killings in Fort Dodge. Those are the 2004 shooting of Lisa McCuddin and the shooting of Brandyn Preston in 2011. He died in January 2012.
Crime Stoppers wants anyone with information on those two deaths to call. Bruner said anybody who calls Crime Stoppers remains anonymous.
"When law enforcement answers that phone, they never ask for the name," Bruner said. "Never."
Each person that calls in to Crime Stoppers is given a number, which Bruner said determines how rewards are given out.
"After law enforcement has taken the information on the suspect, they instruct the caller to call back on a weekly basis to see what has happened with that case," he said. "They check in to see if they have been captured and if there's a reward due. If these people want the rewards, law enforcement will tell them the reward information and ask that person how and where they would like to collect that money."
Bruner said tipsters have received rewards in several different ways. Some have asked for the money to be left at the police station to be picked up, while others have asked it to be left at a bank for pickup.
Bruner, who doesn't give out the money himself, said he even heard one story about an informant who asked that the reward money be left in a phone booth on a specific page of a phone book. The tipster asked the money be left at a specific time for them to pick up.
"They get their money, no questions asked," he said. "Nothing. Zero. The record has been absolutely pure and perfect with anonymity."
Since the most wanted list began, Bruner said Crime Stoppers has paid out over $100,000 in rewards. Rewards are at least $50, and on average are a little over $100, he said.
More people are calling Crime Stoppers with information than they ever have before, according to Bruner.
"To begin with, people didn't quite understand Crime Stoppers, or maybe they didn't know how to respond to it or didn't trust it," he said. "Now they realize it's a very viable program. People realize that this thing works."
Bruner suspects that people trust Crime Stoppers because they know they won't be identified.
"No one has ever lost their anonymity because of the program, and they never will," he said. "We never ask anything about the person calling in. We don't want to know anything about the people calling in."
Bruner said he believes the people of Webster County can work together to bring the suspected criminals into custody and bring arrests in unsolved crimes.
"We've got 30,000 good citizens in this county and we've got maybe 200 to 300 bad people," he said. "We've got a citizen's army that we're building around 30,000 people. We get more and more participants every time, and they tell other people, which builds the trust. It's just growing and it's going to get stronger and more effective all the time."
Bruner said he hopes one day Crime Stoppers, which has more than 200 members, will have from 500 to 1,000 members.
"It'll take time and work, but we've got to keep delivering good information," he said. "We're all volunteers. Nobody gets paid a penny. We're just doing the best we can with the items we have."
Anyone who has information on one of Crime Stoppers' most wanted cases, or any unsolved case, is asked to contact them at 573-1444. Tips can also be sent online at wccrimestoppers.com.
Contact Peter Kaspari at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org