Posted Online: May 05, 2008, 10:40 am
Crime Stoppers has been taking a bite out of crime
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By Stephen Elliott,
Gang shootings, armed robberies, drug deals. It's a world Moline police Detective Scott Williams has dealt with for years.
For the past eight years, he has been in charge of Crime Stoppers of the Quad-Cities, and the last few months have resulted in a record number of anonymous tips.
Detective Williams said local Crime Stoppers, which is Quad-Cities wide, has been a valuable tool for law enforcement since its formation nearly 26 years ago.
"We try to keep a low profile. All we do is take the information," Detective Williams said. "The cops do the donkey share of the work. Coming out of the blocks this year, it (criminal activity) has ramped up. February and March were record months for us (on calls)."
Since 1982, Crime Stoppers has paid out more than $250,000 to anonymous tipsters. That money comes from fundraisers, including an annual Crime Stoppers 5K Race.
Detective Williams said tips come from a variety of sources. Rival gang members and dope dealers turn each other in. Family members who see a daughter's husband addicted to crack will call. Concerned citizens will call about criminal activity in their neighborhoods.
"When the (Crime Stoppers) board hands them $500 to $800 bucks for a two-minute phone call, they'll use us like a part-time job," Detective Williams said. "They'll get on the Crime Stoppers Web site, see who is the most wanted, and keep their eyes and ears open.
"There are good, productive citizens calling us. Our board loves to raise money and hand out money."
Last year, Crime Stoppers helped solve 160 cases ranging from capturing fugitives to narcotics, vandalism and robbery. Information provided by an anonymous caller led to the arrest of four people for "smash and grab" burglaries at Automotive Innovations, Necker's Jewelers, Diamonds on the Avenue, Gordman's and other places.
Stolen property valued at $246,000 was recovered, and the four suspects charged with 10 counts of burglary and criminal damage, according to Crime Stoppers 2007 annual report.
Detective Williams said Crime Stoppers is successful on both sides of the river.
According to the report, an anonymous tip led to the arrest of a fugitive wanted for willful injury and intimidation with a dangerous weapon in connection with a drive-by shooting in Davenport.
Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Rene Sandoval said Crime Stoppers has led to some good arrests.
"It gives people an alternative way to give information," he said. "Many times, people are reluctant because of fear of reprisal. Some people just don't like talking to the police."
Henry County State's Attorney Terry Patton said Crime Stoppers also has had an impact in rural areas.
"It helps point us in the right direction sometimes when we're given the name of a suspect," Mr. Patton said. "It's information we can use in search warrants if we can corroborate it with some other evidence."
Detective Williams said payoffs for successful tips have a clandestine feel. Tipsters are given numbers and Crime Stopper board members meet the tipster at a designated location for the payoff.
"We get these tips and a lot of them are dead ends," Detective Williams said. "The ones that actually help catch a felony fugitive, that police department calls us back and says it's a good tip.
"Based on that information, that's what I take back to the board. The board discusses how much money they want to pay. They love to pay.
"When that person (tipster) calls back, I tell them, `This Thursday, we're going to make a payoff along the river.' Or over in Bettendorf at this location. Or on Avenue of the Cities.
"All they know is someone is going to show up. I'll tell them something like to meet at noon at a park bench at 34th Street and River Drive and there will be a board member wearing a red coat sitting on the park bench.
"They'll sit down next to the board member, tell them their code number. The board member will either hand them an envelope or pass them a newspaper (with money inside).
"Board members love it. It's top secret stuff, all cloak and dagger."
And, he said, it works. Anyone with information on a crime can call Crime Stoppers at (309) 762-9500.
Crime Stoppers of the Quad Cities
Since its formation in March 1982
Tips received: 10,271
Number of arrests: 2,489
Total cases solved: 2,711
Homicides solved: 7
Property recovered: $2,982,326
Narcotics seized: $2,138,683
Rewards paid: $259,265
SOURCE: Crime Stoppers of the Quad-Cities