A countywide group of community members whose aim is reducing crime will soon launch its annual effort to recruit new members.
The Webster County Crime Stoppers membership drive will begin with an effort to find those who are already members and ask them to renew their membership.
Membership Chair John Bruner said that process begins with the group mailing letters to everyone who is in the group.
"We will be sending out letters to current paid-up members asking them to renew their membership," Bruner said. "We're also reaching out to our citizens who have been generous enough to give any financial support."
Most members donate either $100 or $500, but Bruner said Crime Stoppers will accept any donation.
"We have citizens contribute as little as $25 and as much as $500," he said. "They have heard about the successes and they want to be a part of it."
After reaching out to those who are already members of Crime Stoppers, Bruner said the group will target people who haven't signed up.
"We're still in the planning process, but one of our next efforts will be to contact those businesses that have never participated in the Crime Stoppers program and ask them to support this effort," Bruner said.
In particular, Bruner said Crime Stoppers would like to focus on new businesses that have recently arrived in the county.
"We're going to reach out to them and ask that they allow us to visit with them about the importance of Webster County Crime Stoppers," Bruner said. "We'll ask them to listen to our story and then invite them to become partners with us."
He said what makes Crime Stoppers unique is that it's a completely volunteer organization.
"Nobody gets paid a penny to be here," Bruner said. "Almost everybody on the board is still working, which means we need to squeeze time out of our daily work schedules to do this most important job, which is growing our membership."
Through this effort he would like to see a total of 300 members of Webster County Crime Stoppers. As of now, the group has about 200.
"Someday we hope to have 500 to 600, because we've got hundreds and hundreds of businesses in the county," he said. "Our membership goals are unlimited."
The money raised by Crime Stoppers goes toward paying for rewards offered by the group, as well as helping law enforcement purchase equipment that may not be available in their agency's budgets.
Those involved in law enforcement said Crime Stoppers has been very valuable to their departments over the years.
Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody said the group serves many purposes within the community.
"They've been tremendous in driving the TipSoft program, which helps us out in criminal investigations," Carmody said. "They're also advocates for us out in the community."
Lt. Kelly Hindman, of the Iowa State Patrol, said the tools Crime Stoppers provides for anonymous tipsters has helped them with investigations as well.
"It's not uncommon for us to receive tips on traffic-related incidents such as reckless drivers or vehicular homicide investigations," Hindman said. "They're important to us that way."
Sheriff Jim Stubbs said not only does Crime Stoppers provide a way for tips to come in, but they've also helped different agencies upgrade their equipment.
"Over the years they've helped us purchase some non-budgeted items to help us apprehend criminals or to help with investigations," Stubbs said. "They're a very dedicated group of volunteer citizens that make it a point to be partners with law enforcement and allow people to come forward with information."
Bruner said he's looking forward to this year's membership drive.
"What we want to do is make Crime Stoppers even louder," he said. "Make the call, send the text and write the email. Join us in making this one of the safest places in the world to live in. We can do it."