Capital-Journal's own ad casts wide net over local thugs p.9

By: David Noack Kansas daily helps nab 24 of '50 most wanted' fugitives in two weeks

Advertising pays. Crime doesn't.
That's what some suspects are probably thinking after they received a dose of unwanted publicity in the form of a public service "most wanted" ad appearing in The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal.
The full-page ad, which ran on Sunday, Jan. 24, featured 50 individuals who are wanted on a variety of charges, from probation violations, selling narcotics, and assault and battery.
The newspaper's advertising and production departments lent their expertise in putting the ad together.
Information for the ads was compiled by the Shawnee County Sheriff's Department and Crime Stoppers of Topeka Inc., a nonprofit citizens action group.
Within a day of the ad appearing, 16 of the top 50 had been apprehended. By last week, 24 of the suspects were in custody. As an incentive, Crime Stoppers also offered rewards of up to $1,000 per tip.
While law enforcement officials expected to nab some of the suspects, they were surprised by the results and the response from the public. The ad worked so well it may now appear quarterly in the paper.
While crime news ? from the most sensational murder to the police blotter ? is a newspaper staple, publishing a printed and localized version of television's "America's Most Wanted" appears to be a new law enforcement ally and a way for a newspaper to demonstrate community concern.
Capital-Journal publisher John Goossen says when the sheriff's department and Crime Stoppers approached him with the idea, he thought it would be a good community service to run the ad.
"We were excited by the results," says Goossen.
While the ad appeared for free this time, Goossen says they are looking to get some sponsors for the page. "We had originally hoped to invite some business sponsors who would help underwrite the cost of the page, but we really had difficulty with that," says Goossen. "The advertisers just did not feel it was a vehicle for them at this time. I believe that with the success it's had that when we run it again later this year that may turn around," says Goossen.
Major Ken Pierce of the Shawnee County Sheriff's Department says he got the idea from the Denver Metro Fugitive Task Force, which has been placing similar "most wanted" ads for four years in The Denver Post and the Denver Rocky Mountain News.
"This has been a great boon for us from our perspective. ? This is the first time we did it, and we have an agreement with the Topeka Capital-Journal that we intend to do it quarterly. We intend to do it a little bit differently. We are going to evolve the process. The next time we will have some 'teasers' in the paper a couple of weeks in advance, to tell readers that coming soon is Shawnee County's Most Wanted II," says Pierce.
He adds that there are 6,000 outstanding arrest warrants in the Topeka area, so there's no lack of copy for future ads.
"These are people who are trying to elude custody, or they may be career offenders that we have good reason to believe that they know there is a charge against them and they haven't turned themselves in. These are the people that typically would not respond to a letter from the court asking that they turn themselves in," says Pierce.
Denver detective Manny Alvarez says that until this point there has been one ad a year. But this year, two ads are being prepared. The first "most wanted" ad is slated for later this month and will feature suspects wanted on domestic violence charges and warrants. The second ad will probably run in late spring or early summer.
Detective sgt. Bill Chew, who oversees the Denver ad effort, says that between 50% to 60% of the suspects listed in the ad are caught.
"The last ad that ran was in May 1998, and we captured 30 of the 50 individuals that appeared in the ad," Chew says.
Tracy Ulmer, promotions and community relations manager at the Denver Post, says the ads are run as a community service.
"We've been doing the most wanted ads two times a year with the metro area police task force and crime stoppers. The police send us the photos and what they are wanted for; we scan them in and make ? an ad. The ad runs on Sunday as a must run for wider readership; we give it to them free as a public service" says Ulmer.
?(The Capital-Journal in Topeka, Kan., ran this "most wanted" ad in a recent edition. Police say the ad paid off with good tips. ) [Caption]
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 6, 1999) [Caption]


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