That superhero is you!
Thanks to the creation of East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers, more than 3,800 tips leading to 80 arrests and the recovery of over $81,000 in stolen property have been made from the community reaching out.
“I think it sends a strong message from the community saying, listen, we’re tired of the criminal activity. We want to feel safe in our homes and businesses,” Stacey Payne said.
Payne is the executive director of East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers. The organization, which debuted nationally in 1976, made its debut in East Tennessee on May 5, 2021.
Payne tells WATE the idea came to her following the shooting deaths of several Austin East students. She says the key to tracking down the suspects was to get the community to help out.
“They are afraid of being identified, you know, retaliation. So, I said, Why not start crime stoppers,” Payne says. “That kind of pushed it and said wait, we need a way for our citizens to anonymously report. Feel safe in reporting information that they have.”
The key words are “anonymously report.” A feature that has allowed ETV Crime Stoppers to flourish in just its first year and a half of existence.
“What they are given is a unique tip ID number. Only good for them. That’s all we know them by. That’s all the bank will know them by,” she says.
Speaking of the bank, as of Dec. 31, 2022, the program has paid almost $28,000 in reward money. As tips have led to 43 warrants filed, over 40 fugitives apprehended and over $3,400 in drugs seized.
“You’re looking at 43 fugitives that have been taken off the streets,” Payne says. “They’re not able to commit their crimes if they are sitting in the jail somewhere. That’s remarkable.”
She stresses every tip may provide officers with that single piece of information they need to solve a crime, “You may have that missing piece of the puzzle. You know, law enforcement has it all but they are missing that eyeball of the eagle or whatever that may be to say yep that is definitely what we are looking for.”
But to keep the program’s success moving forward, the community needs to continue to step up. Just not by providing tips, but by donations as well.
“We are a nonprofit, so we really rely on our community, our business leaders, and everyone.”
According to Payne, whose salary is paid by the City of Knoxville, the Crime Stoppers’ yearly budget is right around $20,000 annually.
More Behind the Badge
“Fund the rewards. Pay for our call center. To really make the program work and make it a success. We need you. We need the community,” she said.
To learn more about East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers, make a donation, or pass along a tip, go to easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org. There you will also find out more about an upcoming Sporting Clays fundraiser scheduled for May 5.