It is not often that a nonprofit organization gets applause from the director of the FBI. Of course, it's not every day that an organization like Crime Stoppers comes along, either.
The Crime Stoppers Program was originated in 1976 in New Mexico and has spread through the country like wildfire.
A program that relies on the cooperation of the media, police and the general community, Crime Stoppers allows callers to remain anonymous and all information is confidential.
Put simply, Crime Stoppers is a three-part approach to solving a crime.
"Crime Stoppers is based on the concept that information on every crime committed in a community exists somewhere within that community," said Investigator Jeff Whannell of the Kenai Police Department, law enforcement coordinator of the Kenai Peninsula Crime Stoppers, in a prepared statement.
"With help from the local media, newspapers and radio stations, the word is spread that Crime Stoppers will pay cash rewards for vital information. People with information about the crime of the week, information about a wanted fugitive and information about narcotics violations are asked to call Crime Stoppers and provide that information."
The communities have, indeed, come through for the program. Crime Stoppers has solved nearly half a million cases nationwide and recovered $3 billion in drugs and stolen property.
It isn't just a nationwide statistic though.
On the Kenai Peninsula, Crime Stoppers has helped solve more than 200 cases, recovered $1.8 million in drugs and property and has paid out more than $14,000 in rewards.
Even FBI Director Louis J. Freeh agrees Crime Stoppers is a valuable program for both communities and law enforcement agencies.
"Some individuals, quite frankly, are intimidated by the thought of providing information on a crime to the FBI or other law enforcement authorities. This is where Crime Stoppers comes in," Freeh said in a letter in honor of January being Crime Stoppers Month.
"It encourages people to step forward by publicizing unsolved crimes, providing an easy, anonymous and safe way to report what they have seen and heard and offering awards for information that leads to arrests."
Rewards for information are distributed in a private manner to callers who are eligible for payouts up to $1,000.
Calls to the Crime Stoppers Program, which can be reached through 283-TIPS or the toll-free number, (800) 478-HALT, are received by a person who does not have caller identification or the ability to record conversations.
"Crime Stoppers allows the caller to give information in a positive atmosphere without the prospect of retribution," Whannell said. "By offering cash rewards for information leading to indictments or arrests, the program encourages otherwise reluctant callers to provide information. You never have to give your name or your phone number."
Whannell said callers who contact Crime Stoppers will hear the radio traffic of the Kenai Police Department's dispatch center over the phone. But callers should remain on the line.
"They hang up because they think they have contacted the police," Whannell said. "The call being answered by dispatch allows the line to be answered 24-hours a day. A tips information form is completed after a call and forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency."
The most important thing Crime Stoppers and its supporters stress is that the program works.
"We all owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals who make Crime Stoppers work, its many volunteers, the involved citizens who provide valuable leads and the financial contributors," Freeh said.
"Thanks to them, our streets are safer, our businesses healthier and our lives more enjoyable."
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