SIOUX CITY | Siouxland's Most Wanted had its 500th outlaw snagged last month.
Chad McCormick, who leads the U.S. Marshals Northern Iowa Fugitive Task Force effort in Sioux City, said the weekly media push is so successful because of Siouxland.
"I think a lot of it has to do with where we live," said McCormick. "The Midwest folks, they aren't very tolerant of criminals. If the town is small enough, a lot of times people know the victims. Any crime is considered close to home because it is such a small town. I think the Midwest values play a huge part in it."
The Marshals' Siouxland's Most Wanted started in 2009. The federal law enforcement entity sends the Journal and local TV station KMEG photos and information about wanted fugitives that are featured in weekly posts asking for the public's help in obtaining clues to their whereabouts.
"We'll go through the warrants that have been recently issued and we will pick out a final warrant: Burglary, robbery, sexual assault, murder, sex offenders, parole violations with a violent charge, escapes. We will just pull those types of warrants out and start looking for them," McCormick said. "That’s the process. There is no rocket science behind it. We just look for violent fugitives."
The task force consists of officers from multiple area agencies. A lot of the fugitives they seek do not make it to the public eye.
"We always don’t just throw somebody onto the Most Wanted, typically if we can quietly work somebody -- and for lack of a better word -- sneak up on them, that’s what we prefer doing," said Joe Bukovich, who is a Woodbury County Sheriff Deputy assigned to the task force. "Usually, when somebody goes on (Siouxland’s) Most Wanted we kind of start running out of leads and need the public’s help for more information."
About 70 fugitives on the wanted list get caught each year, the two said. However, the entire U.S. Marshal's Northern District of Iowa (which consists of the upper part of the state divided by Highway 30) arrests about 400 criminals with warrants out for their arrest. McCormick estimates about half of those are caught in Siouxland.
The task force office, located in the Federal Building in Sioux City, is constantly working about 15 files and often solicits help from other U.S. Marshal Districts around the country if a tip tells them a fugitive is in their jurisdiction.
Once the notice of a fugitive's warrant is made public, tips often come to the rescue.
"It has really helped in a lot of cases when we were dead in the water and we didn’t have anything," Bukovich said.
Tips have come in from as far as the southern tip of Mexico to New York, McCormick said.
Mitchell Meyer, of Correctionville, Iowa, was on the run for 10 years.
"And in the words of the investigating deputy sheriff, he was a prolific sexual offender," McCormick said.
The task force took to Siouxland's Most Wanted for what seemed like a cold case.
Shortly after it was published, "We got a call that (Meyer) is in this town at this address in Mexico. We had him arrested down there and we basically had him deported as an undesirable. That’s how we ended up catching him," McCormick said.
"Criminals are really 1 percent of the population. (By) using media, interviews, the more eyes we can get out there the better," McCormick added. "It's not just us. Every (law enforcement agency) relies on the public. This entire area has not let us down."
McCormick, a 16-year veteran in the Marshal's Service, said taking a violent criminal off the street is rewarding.
"We live here. We want our kids, our community to be as safe as we can leave it when we retire," McCormick said. "We work very hard to make sure this city is safer than it was yesterday."
If residents have any information on any wanted fugitive they can call the Northern Iowa Fugitive Task Force at 712-252-0211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.