By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Tina DeMotsis, Investigator for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, and Terry Lenz of Crime Stoppers of Madison were the guest speakers at the Rotary Club’s Aug. 31 meeting, to give an overview of Crime Stoppers of Madison County, Inc.
Crime Stoppers of Madison is a non-profit 501(c)3, funded entirely through a trust fund governed by the Attorney General. Whenever a criminal is assessed fines and court costs, a portion of the court costs go into the trust fund. The local Crime Stoppers received start-up grant money, with help from Police Chief Gary Calhoun, from this fund; it is also where the reward monies come from.
The good thing about this, said DeMotsis, is that it is funded entirely by criminals, which assists in the capture of other criminals. “Not one penny of tax money goes into this.”
The local Crime Stoppers is separate from Crime Stoppers of Big Bend, in order to give residents a direct local number to call, rather than routing calls through an 800 number in a distant location. This has proven beneficial, not only because people feel more comfortable calling a local number, but also because dispatchers know the area and can quickly send law enforcement to the right location.
“Our fastest turn-around time has been about 20 minutes, from getting a tip to making an arrest,” said DeMotsis. “That’s the benefit of being local.”
Several times, she added, the miscreants caught either in the act or shortly thereafter, have asked, “how did you even know we were here?” The other element Lenz and DeMotsis stressed about the program was the absolute anonymity guaranteed to those who call in with information about criminal activity, or “something that just doesn’t look right.” Although Crime Stoppers will ask detailed questions about the activity or incident being reported, they will not ask the caller for his or her name. Instead, they will give the caller an ID number for later use in claiming a reward if an arrest is made. The calls made to the Tip Line are not recorded, and there is no Caller ID displaying the caller’s phone number. The calls come in on an old-fashioned, low-tech princess telephone.
Tipsters can call back on another number within a few days, using the ID number, to see what has happened with the investigation and learn if they are entitled to a reward.
Crime Stoppers has also recently been approved for “Tips Through Texting” and are waiting on funds to implement that program. Via the “Tips Through Texting” program, schoolchildren will have a comfortable, familiar venue for reporting such things as a gun on campus, or incidents of drug dealing.
Crime Stoppers also works with the Humane Society to investigate animal cruelty cases and the Fire Marshal’s Office for cases of suspected arson. They speak to various groups such as senior citizens, teaching self-defense and identity theft prevention, and distribute pamphlets through the school system.
They want to let the community know Crime Stoppers is out there for them, another avenue for community members to take back their communities and feel safe again.
No crime is too big or too small. See it, hear it, report it, at 973-2762.