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Most Wanted page leads to 200th arrest

Authorities praise weekly Blade 'tool'

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Joseph Custer was arrested Wednesday on charges of burglary and eluding arrest. He is the 200th arrest linked to the Most Wanted page.

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Northwest Ohio's fugitive task force has made its 200th arrest since The Blade began publishing its weekly Most Wanted page nine months ago.

About 50 of those turned themselves in, authorities said, often after seeing their own faces in the paper.

"It's been leaps and bounds over what we thought would happen," U.S. Deputy Marshal Rodney Hartzell said. "It's become a fantastic tool."

MOST WANTED: View pages online

The Tuesday page, which offers a reward for information about the most elusive fugitives, has helped the task force arrest nearly six of those who have eluded authorities each week. The reward amount varies with the crime's severity and how useful the information is. Mr. Hartzell declined to give estimates of a typical reward.

The 200th fugitive arrested was Joseph Custer, 20, of Toledo. He was picked up Wednesday on charges of burglary and eluding arrest. Authorities got an early morning tip that he was in the area of Western Avenue and arrested him there.

Mr. Hartzell said many of the tips arrive through the hot line early in the morning, which he says is connected to Blade readership. Suspects occasionally call that same line once they've seen their own picture -- either to turn themselves in or express frustration that their pictures are in the newspaper, Mr. Hartzell said.

Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said that since the page's debut in September, the city's Crime Stopper program has had an increased call volume, with several callers mentioning they recognized suspects from The Blade.

"Unlike a picture that you might release to the TV media where you only get a quick glimpse, with a newspaper photo it's something they can look at," Chief Navarre said. "It's proven to be a very effective tool, and in this business you want all the tools you can get."

The suspects' pictures are printed in color on a full page each Tuesday, and links to current and previous weeks' pages can be found on The Blade's Web site in Hot Topics at www.toledoblade.com/mostwanted.

Mr. Hartzell also delivers a 30-second presentation of a wanted fugitive on Channel 24 on Tuesday nights at 11 p.m. He said the task force made its 200th arrest through that outlet this month; that program has been running for more than three years.

The Blade's president and general manager, Joseph H. Zerbey IV, attributed the page's success to strong readership.

"I think it proves the power of the print media is very much there," Mr. Zerbey said.

In the early 1990s, task forces would occasionally print three to five profiles of fugitives in The Blade, and Mr. Hartzell said those printings had a perfect record of leading to arrests.

The task force has arrested almost 4,000 fugitives since it was formed in 2005.

"We can't do [our jobs] alone, we need the help of the public. And this is when the public can help us," Chief Navarre said.

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