Most of us have watched or read a news report about a crime that has concluded with a request for anyone with information "to contact law enforcement or Crime Stoppers." But what is the Crime Stopper program and how does it work?
Crime Stoppers is a community-based program that links the public, the media, and law enforcement in the ongoing fight against crime. The program operates on the belief that someone other than the perpetrator has information about a crime that could help investigators solve the case. As an incentive to participate in the program a person providing a tip may remain anonymous, and they may be eligible for a reward of up to $1000 if the tip leads to an arrest.
Crime Stoppers has its roots in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where in 1976 detectives who where investigating the homicide of a young gas station attendant approached a local television station for help. The detectives had exhausted all leads asked the station to air a reenactment of the crime with the belief that someone in the community had information that could help to solve the crime. An anonymous tip line was established and a reward was offered for information about the crime. This unprecedented tactic resulted in the receipt of a tip that led to the arrest of the murder suspects.
Today, there are over 1200 Crime Stoppers organizations worldwide including one in Pinellas County. Crime Stoppers of Pinellas County, Inc. was formed in January of 2001 to better serve the citizens of Pinellas County in the fight against crime. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office employs and houses the Pinellas Crime Stoppers Coordinator through a grant with the office of the Florida Attorney General Crime Stoppers Trust Fund. The Crime Stoppers Coordinator oversees the daily program operations and coordinates the efforts of the community, law enforcement and the media in a unified effort to reduce crime in Pinellas County.
To date, anonymous Crime Stoppers tips have lead to 304 arrests in Pinellas County and they have solved 713 cases. In addition $110,384 in property or narcotics have been recovered. Since 2001 approximately $60,000 in reward money has been recommended, however the tipsters have only collected about $30,000. The fact is some people don't care about the reward money; they just want to provide the information anonymously.
Tips may be offered by calling a 24-hour toll free number (1-800-873-TIPS), or online at www.crimestopperofpinellas.org. Another option has recently been added allowing citizens to send a text message to 25735 with keyword "TIP144" in the first line of the message. With all three options, the tipster remains anonymous and is eligible for a reward if their tip information results in an arrest.
For additional information about Crime Stoppers of Pinellas Inc. please contact the Sheriff's Public Information Office at (727) 582-6221 or visit the website listed above.