Crime Stoppers looking for more local push

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Law enforcement on the Kenai Peninsula has a silent partner that is looking for a few good citizens. Kenai Peninsula Crime Stoppers Inc. has been on the peninsula since 1983, and the organization is looking for all the help it can get.

Barbara Ruckman, chair of the peninsula board, spoke at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week to raise awareness of the program and recruit for the local organization's governing body.

"We haven't had a push for membership for six years," Ruckman said. "We need board members who are committed."

The board is a self-maintained extension of Crime Stoppers International Inc., the worldwide nonprofit organization started in 1976 to combat criminal activity through a combined effort between the media, the community and law enforcement agencies.

The international program, which is active in 16 countries, offers reward money to encourage anonymous information on crimes. As of Dec. 1, Crime Stoppers has been responsible for more than 300,000 arrests and more than $53 million in stolen property recovered.

Ruckman's group raises funds to pay for anonymous tips concerning crimes on the peninsula. Currently, the local board membership is at six. But board treasurer Earlene Reed said the criteria for membership is simple.

"We need someone who's interested in protecting the community," Reed said. "We could probably use someone with marketing skills, but we just need someone with a fresh, new opinion."

A new opinion could lend help. In the past, board member Wayne Pattison said the peninsula Crime Stoppers contracted a company from Outside to help with fund-raising efforts.

Sports Entertainment Group was one of the athletic promotional companies that helped Crime Stoppers sponsor two celebrity sporting events on the peninsula. Pattison said because Crime Stoppers only collected a percentage of the money, this has changed.

"Last year the board got a little disturbed by the fact that a number of thousands of dollars were leaving the peninsula and going to California," Pattison said. "It takes a little bit more effort on our own part, but it's well worth it."

Reed said the promoters they worked with had high overhead that left Crime Stoppers with little money.

"They would collect anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 and we would get from $2,000 to $6,000," she said. "We thought, 'If people are donating, I'm sure they'd rather 100 percent go to our organization.'"

Sgt. Chuck Kopp, detective supervisor for the Kenai Police Department, is the Crime Stoppers coordinator for the peninsula. He works with law enforcement agencies across the peninsula to take tips and follow up on leads of crimes using a dedicated, nonrecorded phone line.

Since its inception, Kenai Peninsula Crime Stoppers has solved 209 crimes and paid out nearly $15,000 in rewards. As of Nov. 30, Kopp said local Crime Stoppers has taken 78 calls this year, resulting in six cases solved, three arrests made and $400 in rewards paid out to date. He said local activity has been effective, leading to the recovery of more than just stolen products on the peninsula.

"We recovered just over $58,000 in drugs and (stolen) property this year," he said.

Kopp described a recent case in which an informant received a $100-reward for helping solve a crime.

"In the Homer area, we had an elderly couple whose home had been broken into," he said. "They weren't so concerned about an expensive computer system that was stolen as they were about their wedding photo set from the 1920s. These were priceless to them and practically a family heirloom. That was recovered as a result of a Crime Stoppers call."

For more information or to report a Crime Stoppers incident, call 283-TIPS (8477) or (800) 478-HALT (4258).

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