In 1982, a small group of law enforcement officials and community members decided to come together to form a group dedicated to fighting crime in Webster County.
Today, Webster County Crime Stoppers is synonymous with helping capture criminals and spreading awareness of law enforcement not just within the county, but across the state and nation as well.
Many of the members of that original group, including John Bruner, are still active today.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Webster County Crime Stoppers founding board member John Bruner, left, along with current board President Dan Streit, have been helping area residents stay safe for three decades by keeping an eye on things. The group is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Bruner, who has served in many different leadership roles over the years, is the current membership chair.
"The idea for Webster County Crime Stoppers actually came from Chuck Griggs, who was the sheriff at the time," Bruner said. "He came up with the idea along with Dennis Wertz, who was a police detective, and Mayor Herb Conlon."
Bruner said the trio went all over Webster County promoting the idea for Crime Stoppers.
Webster County Crime Stoppers latest reward offer
Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the capture and conviction of an armed robbery suspect. At 3:04 a.m. Sunday, the Kum & Go at 115 N. 22nd St. was robbed by a suspect armed with a shotgun. The suspect took an undetermined amount of money before fleeing the scene on foot. No one was injured. The suspect is described by Fort Dodge police as a black man, between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 8 inches and weighing between 140 to 160 lbs. He was wearing blue jeans and a black sweatshirt and had his face partially covered by a dark-colored cloth. Anyone with information on the robbery is asked to contact Fort Dodge police at 573-1426 or Crime Stoppers at 573-1444. Tips can also be sent in by texting "LEC" and sending the tip to 274637.
"They went out to the schools, they went to the Chamber, they went to service clubs," he said. "Anybody that would listen to them they would talk to."
During the fall of 1982, Bruner said the group even brought in Albuquerque, N.M., Police Det. Greg MacAleese, the founder of Crime Stoppers USA, to give a presentation to members of the community.
"We filled up the Starlite with community leaders in business, government, education," he said. "You name it, they were there."
Though Crime Stoppers is one of the most well-known organizations in the county, Bruner said it didn't start out that way.
"When we would first meet as a board, there was no representation from any law enforcement groups," he said. "Probably for the first three or four years we didn't have any money either. All we had was a lot of enthusiasm for bringing this to Fort Dodge and growing it into something very powerful."
The monthly most wanted list wasn't a part of Crime Stoppers until 2000, almost 20 years after the organization began, Bruner said.
"All we had was a telephone number," he said. "Our main objective was to get that number out to everybody in the county. If they knew a crime had been committed, or of one that was going to be committed, they could call that number with anonymous information."
Today, everything is different. Representatives from law enforcement and public safety agencies regularly attend the Crime Stoppers board meeting every month, and the phone number, 573-1444, is still in use today.
Bruner said the monthly most wanted list has an 80 percent success rate, with many suspects turning themselves in after seeing their photos on the list.
He's noticed an increase in the amount of communication between different official departments since Crime Stoppers began too.
"It's just been another avenue of getting together, for them to get to know each other," he said. "We feel we were a part of helping to create that improved relationship."
Crime Stoppers Board President Dan Streit, who has been involved with the group for the past five years, agreed with Bruner.
"They all work as a team, which they've also been working on themselves for quite awhile," he said.
Streit said he believes Crime Stoppers has had a positive impact on Fort Dodge and Webster County.
"Our citizens are aware that they can report crimes in many different ways," he said. "We've taken a lot of bad guys off the streets, and it's been a good run program for a very long time."
The various law enforcement agencies that work with Crime Stoppers have all benefited from the organization.
"They're a proven partner that has been a tremendous asset to our community and our department," Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody said. "They're always willing to step up."
Webster County Sheriff Brian Mickelson commended Crime Stoppers on its successes over the past few years.
"We've got a fantastic group of board members and they're all very active," he said. "Crime Stoppers has stepped up and been a very positive partner for law enforcement in the area, and we've probably got one of the best Crime Stoppers boards in the state of Iowa."
The work of Webster County Crime Stoppers has been recognized across the state and nation, according to Bruner. Most recently, they helped Hamilton County create its own Crime Stoppers group.
Streit said he looks forward to the future of Crime Stoppers.
"We're a very strong organization that's well-respected around the state and nation," he said. "We're going to be around for a long time."