Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Capital-Journal's Own Ad Casts Wide Net over Local Thugs

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Capital-Journal's Own Ad Casts Wide Net over Local Thugs

Article excerpt

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. …

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