The phenomenon of Daily News readers helping to catch alleged murderers, rapists, bank robbers and other outlaws is not new. Since "Week's Most Wanted" debuted in 2004, authorities estimate, nearly 200 fugitives have been nabbed as a result of tips from the newspaper's readers.
"It's a valuable resource for us," said Special Agent J.J. Klaver, spokesman for the FBI in Philadelphia. "When we run those things, we get tips."
The recent success of the Daily News in helping to nab wanted men and women continues a tradition dating to the years when fugitives would turn themselves in to columnist Chuck Stone. (See accompanying story.)
"Week's Most Wanted," which usually runs on Mondays, features two fugitives sought by U.S. Marshals or the FBI.
James Burke, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals Eastern Pennsylvania Violent Crime Fugitive Task Force, said his agency has nabbed nearly 100 fugitives as a direct result of tips from readers of "Week's Most Wanted." The FBI's Klaver said about the same number have been caught by his agency, but he said the FBI hasn't kept a record of past tip arrests.
"We get calls probably on 90 percent of the jobs we put in there," Burke said. "Not all information leads to an arrest, but all of it is helpful in the fugitive investigation. We have tips that range from a little information all the way to 'This is how I know the person and where he is right now.' "
This year, at least 14 featured fugitives, many of whom are charged with murder, have been caught as a result of tips called in by People's Paper readers.
For example, after a reader tipped them off, authorities caught Vincent "Huddy" Leach, wanted for the fatal shooting of Yavonne Burch, 22, in Port Richmond, in August.
"We just thank God he was caught and hope justice is served," a family member of Burch's who didn't want her named printed said the other day from the porch of her home. "She didn't deserve that."
Edward Gause, a handyman wanted in the 2010 slaying of Mayor Nutter's neighbor, Robert Lancaster, was tracked down at an Upper Darby shelter after a Daily News reader cooperated with authorities.
In July 2010, Reginald Smith allegedly shot James K. Sanders, 29, of North Philadelphia, in the left eye and right knee, killing him.
Less than a month later, after Smith's photo appeared in "Week's Most Wanted," U.S. Marshals paid a reader a $1,500 reward for a tip that led them to an East Mount Airy apartment where Smith was staying.
Seeking similar success in nabbing unnamed bank robbers, the Daily News in July 2009 initiated a feature with the FBI's Philadelphia field office titled "Catch Me if You Can." The feature, which usually runs on Thursdays, features a surveillance photo and details of the robbery.
Of 52 bank-robbery cases that appeared in the People's Paper since that feature launched, arrests were made in 32 of the cases - or almost 62 percent - based on tips from readers, the FBI said.
"We start getting phone calls Thursday morning when the paper comes out," said Special Agent Bastian Freund, who heads the bank-robbery team for the FBI's Philly office. "Every Thursday morning, I get to my desk and someone who sees the paper usually knows [the suspected robber] from the neighborhood or work."
Freund said "Catch Me if You Can" has helped speed up the process of solving bank robberies, which have the highest solve rate among violent crimes. This year, of 13 bank robberies that appeared in the Daily News through mid-October, 10 suspects were identified by readers - a 77 percent success rate.
He praised readers' vigilance, saying their tips are accurate almost every time.
"When we get a Daily News tip, we don't get 10 to 20 names," he said. "The pictures and tips are so good, usually they're right on. We get one or two [names].
"If we put your picture in the Daily News for 'Catch Me if You Can' Thursday, there's an 80 percent chance you're gonna get caught, so you might as well turn yourself in."
Some suspects have done just that.
After seeing his picture in the Daily News, caught by a surveillance camera during an alleged robbery of an East Germantown bank in February, Herbert Hardison, 43, surrendered to cops in the 35th District, Broad Street and Champlost Avenue.