BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - After being dormant for several years, the Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers program has made a huge comeback. Four years ago, the program was resurrected, and since then, hundreds of arrests have been made through tips left by people calling in with information and reaping a reward.
Tuesday, the organization honored those on the front lines of crime fighting. The program began with a color guard and more than 300 officers honoring America. A reenactment of raising the flag at Iwo Jima added a poignant touch. Then, it was time to talk and swap law enforcement tales.
Crime Stoppers is a true success story.
"I think it's been very effective," Pass Christian Police Chief John Dubuisson said. "We get tips from different people and they are paying out on a regular basis. People turn people in for money. Money makes people talk."
The examples are endless, according to Lt. Doug Adams with the Pascagoula Police Department.
"Since we started back up, we've made several arrests in the past couple of weeks due to our tips. A couple in D'Iberville, the pawn shop burglary, and then the arson case at the apartment complex are two of the most recent ones that we've paid out on," Adams explained.
While most of those in law enforcement say that Crime Stoppers has become a big crime fighting tool the past four years, even a crime deterrent some say, prosecutors who go after the criminals say it's also very effective.
"We have received several tips over the years that have actually solved cases. One helped us solve a murder case," Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence said. "So we believe Crime Stoppers is an integral part of making our communities safer."
The program, and this breakfast are also a great way to network.
"We share ideas, we share experiences, it's just a great experience. We certainly appreciate the Coast Crime Commission for putting this on," Chief Wayne Payne with the D'Iberville Police Department said.
"Most of them know each other, but it is an awesome opportunity to come together, speak, and pass on information and things that are going on in our communities," Jackson County Sheriff Charles Britt said.
At the end of the program, several officers, along with state and federal agents from the six coastal counties were honored for their crime fighting efforts over the past year.
Sgt. Thomas Betha was named the Coast-wide Officer of the Year for his work on a Hancock County kidnapping and assault case.
The Officer of the Year winners for each group include:
George County - Deputy Larry Harvard (Lucedale Police Dept.)
Greene County - Deputy James Bradford Warrick (Greene Co. Sheriff's Office)
Hancock County - Detective Don Gray (Bay St. Louis Police Dept.)
Harrison County - Lt. Bruce Carver (Harrison County Sheriff's Office)
Jackson County - Sgt. Richard Davis (Pascagoula Police Dept.)
Federal agencies - Deputy US Marshal Marcus Bass (U.S. Marshals Service)
State agencies - Agent Ian Estorsee (MS Bureau of Narcotics)