Crime Stoppers program aims to offer confidence in reporting crime, assisting with ongoing investigations

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — City leaders are hoping to add a tool to the toolbox when it comes to solving crime. Knoxville Police Department Chief Eve Thomas announced Tuesday the department is taking steps to form a local Crime Stoppers USA program.

The announcement came after Knoxville City Council unanimously approved $1 million dollars of emergency funding for violence prevention and interruption efforts. Some of that money will help establish the program.

The effort also comes during an ongoing search for those responsible for the shooting deaths of two Austin-East Magnet High School students.

Crime Stoppers is made up of independent programs across the country. Each is independent, operates under its own rules, and has its own board of directors. The organizations’ website shows more than 600,000 arrests have been made nationwide, since programs began in 1976.

It gives tipsters multiple ways to anonymously report crime or provide tips. Information that leads to an arrest results in a $1,000 cash reward. The site shows more than $100 million given out in award money since programs started.

Success of the programs largely depends on public and private contribution, including fundraising and media partnerships.

Stacey Payne, KPD’s police planning & grants manager, believes this could be a game-changer for both solving and preventing crime. She said they hope to secure operating expenses and reward money completely through community support in the future. She also said they plan to reach out to other law enforcement agencies in the region, as tips could help with investigations outside Knoxville.

KPD already has a method for anonymously providing information to officers; however Payne noted it’s one-way communication. There is no opportunity for investigators to ask follow-up questions. Through Crime Stoppers, investigators can ask for clarification.

The program also allows the public to send video, audio, pdf documents, and even offer updates to a tip, by phone, email, website submission, or smartphone app.

“All ways will keep them completely anonymous,” Payne said. Tips are received by a 24-hour call center in Ontario, Canada and distributed to appropriate law enforcement agencies.

No personal information is requested when filing a tip or claiming a reward. Tipsters are assigned a number as an identifier.

“If we need to ask them a question, we go through that number. Let’s say their tip leads to an arrest. That number is how they’re going to collect their money,” she said.

The $1,000 reward from Crime Stoppers will come from the program. Because it would be independent of KPD, the local program could accept outside reward funds to increase the incentive for people to come forward with information.

“There’s usually three people that know what’s going on about a crime. It’s someone the bad person has given information to, it’s the victim, and the criminal. So this is a way that we can say come on, come forward,” Payne added.

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