Crime Stoppers To Promote Public Awareness

The leaders of "Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers" want more people to know the Crime Stoppers  hotline number. The number is 1-800-433-TIPS.

One of the group's goals for the new year is to boost public awareness. Crime Stoppers is a proven program that can help track criminals and solve crimes. But that success depends on involvement and awareness.

Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards to citizens who anonymously call in tips to help solve crimes. Leaders couldn't provide WLOX News with the exact number of phone call tips last year, but they admit it was a small number.

Thursday, Crime Stoppers board members and law enforcement representatives talked about improving the program.

You've seen and heard the Crime Stoppers number following television news stories about crime, like bank robberies and other crimes with suspects still at large.

The program's success involves three distinct groups.

"Crime Stoppers is a triad of the community, law enforcement and the media. And it takes all three components to work together on an equal basis to make the program work," said statewide director, Margaret Cooper.

Representatives from all three groups met to learn more about how Crime Stoppers works and where improvements are needed. The tried and true formula is simple enough. Phone callers offer anonymous tips to help police solve crimes. Tips that lead to arrests result in citizen rewards.

"There's been ups and downs. There's been roller coasters. The success of course has been when we've been able to solve crimes. When we, as a board, have been able to assist law enforcement in solving crime. That's the success of the program," said Greg Payne, with Coast Crime Stoppers.

Leaders of Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers plan to increase public awareness of the program in an effort to generate more calls to the tip line. Despite a disappointing number of calls last year, it only takes one credible call to make a difference. Just a few months ago, a Crime Stoppers tip helped the Jackson County Sheriff's Department break up a crime ring responsible for fifteen burglaries.

Rick Kirk is chief investigator with the Biloxi Police Department.

"We've gotten many tips over the years. If I remember correctly, we got involved with it in the mid to late eighties. And over the years we have gotten a number of tips to help out on a number of different crimes," he said.

The Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers got started in 1986. It involves the three coastal counties. Statewide, there are 29 different Crime Stopper networks.