Thursday, March 24, 2005

The how and why of Crime Stoppers

Marshall County Crime Stoppers received 12 anonymous calls in 2004 and paid out $645 for tips leading to four arrests. These tips ranged from drug sales, “wanted” persons, stolen vehicles to arson.

Since its inception in 1982, Crime Stoppers has grown to 1,200 programs worldwide. Due to community cooperation, Crime Stoppers had cleared 1 million plus cases, made over 500,000 arrests, recovered property in excess of $1.5 million, and seized nearly $5 million in drugs.

Crime Stopper programs worldwide boast a 98 percent conviction rate. Most suspects, when caught because of a crime stoppers tip, will usually plead and are less likely to face a court trial. The evidence is just too strong against them.

Crime Stoppers is being recognized both nationally and internationally for its ability to channel human intelligence. Communities and law enforcement agencies consider Crime Stoppers a partnership of grass roots information to assist those whose profession it is to keep society safe. Funding for the programs are based entirely on private donations and fundraising.

How Crime Stoppers works

It is important for citizens to remember that something they saw or heard, something that may have seemed unimportant, may be just the tip that Crime Stoppers needs to enable local law enforcement agencies solve a crime in their community. The information on the hotline points the investigator in a general direction to look regarding a particular case. It is up to the law enforcement community to follow up on the tip information and investigate it thoroughly.

Often times law enforcement agencies encounter individuals who will not provide information directly for fear of reprisal, who might have an attitude of apathy or who are reluctant to get involved. It is noted that most callers do not call crime stoppers for the monetary reward. The fear of retaliation and reprisal is why most citizens don’t get involved in a criminal case. Crime Stoppers solved that by offering complete and total anonymity. Most callers use the Crime Stoppers hotline because of the guarantee of anonymity. The caller will never be identified; never have to go to court; and never have to testify.

The Crime Stoppers program is designed to give individuals the opportunity to provide information without having to speak to the police directly, or having to testify in court. During an investigation, a Crime Stoppers tip may help an investigator zero in on a suspect or criminal operation. The cash rewards motivate some people to call with information that could be vital to investigators.

Community involvement essential

Community involvement is the foundation of local Crime Stoppers programs. The Crime Stoppers board of directors is comprised of community volunteers. These directors make decisions regarding operations, raising funds and approving reward payments when crimes are solved. Locally, citizens can show their support of the program at public events and through fundraising activities.

Media’s role

The media’s responsibility is to assist Crime Stoppers by publicizing unsolved crimes and fundraising appeals through television, radio and local newspapers.

Law enforcement’s role

A local “coordinator” operates the Crime Stoppers program on a daily basis. Callers are never asked to identify themselves and there is no equipment in the office that records voices or traces telephone numbers. Anonymity is guaranteed. Persons calling Crime Stoppers receive a code number that allows them to claim a reward once an arrest has been made. Local law enforcement is required to investigate the various tips and report to the coordinator when a crime is solved.

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