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Crime Stoppers open house sees poor turnout

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While a Crime Stoppers open house last Thursday night at La Place Rendez-Vous only drew one local resident, the information session wasn’t all for naught as the person who did attend said she eventually might join the committee here.

“It was informal but covered a lot of information,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous given the nature of the program.

“In another year, I might be interested in joining,” she said. “I’ve been involved with other boards and it’s good to know about an organization before jumping in.

“I’d like to see the program keep going.”

With the wine-and-cheese planned as a way to draw new blood to the local board, which currently sports 13 members, regional co-ordinator Det. Cst. Petrina Taylor of Kenora said she’s hopeful the group will see more members join in 2003.

“We mostly gain new members by word of mouth,” she noted, explaining current board members meet only once a month.

After that, promotion of the anonymous tip program, as well as organizing fundraisers like the “Great Rubber Duckie Race” and all-star hockey exhibition game, is done as volunteers can find the time.

Det. Cst. Taylor also took the time to relate some information of the program—and the difference between calling the police and calling Crime Stoppers when it comes to information about a crime.

“With us, you don’t have to identify who are. With the police, you have to give your name,” she noted. “Some people feel more comfortable being anonymous. Others feel the anonymity is necessary.

“For instance, if you’re a drug dealer, you might want to eliminate your competition, so to speak,” she added, noting about 80 percent of all calls received by the regional Crime Stoppers program are drug-related.

“In some circumstances, police may end up talking to you during an investigation regarding a crime you happened to report, but you still don’t have to say you were the tipster,” she stressed.

“The confidentiality that we’ve built up over the years, we don’t want to ruin it. It’s been a successful program,” echoed Fort Frances OPP Cst. Al MacDonald, who serves as the police liaison for the local Crime Stoppers chapter.

And successful it has been, with tips on local crimes coming in from as far away as Edmonton after someone bragged about a crime they never thought they would get caught for, related one board member, who asked to remain anonymous.

As far as response time goes, Det. Cst. Taylor said there’s little difference between reporting a crime to Crime Stoppers and to the police.

“If I take a tip in the office, it goes to the respective detachment right away,” she explained. “If the call comes on weekends or after hours, it depends on the urgency of the reported crime.”

A tipster then is given a personal identification number (or PIN), which they can use to call Crime Stoppers back and get an update on the crime they had reported.

If the information they provided was useful, they’re eligible for a cash reward with no other questions asked.

In related news, Det. Cst. Taylor also said local Shaw cable subscribers can look forward to seeing more video re-enactments as part of its community programming in the year ahead, as well as more Crime Stoppers articles in the Fort Frances Times or Daily Bulletin.

Cst. MacDonald, who also co-ordinates the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program in district schools, said he plans to focus more on spreading awareness of Crime Stoppers among youth.

“What we’re now looking for is high school students,” he remarked. “We want to establish a Crime Stoppers at Fort Frances High School, and have it linked to our board, with the students attending some of the meetings.”

Those interested in getting involved with the local Crime Stoppers chapter can contact Cst. MacDonald at 274-7777.

In the meantime, if the public knows of any crime that has been committed, or any details on a crime reported by Crime Stoppers, call 1-800-222-8477.

You never have to give your name—and could earn a cash reward up to $2,000.

Crime Stoppers originated in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1976 when a police detective named Greg MacAleese made an appeal to the public and offered a cash reward to anyone who helped solve the murder of a gas station attendant.

The reward system worked and since then, Crime Stoppers worldwide has been responsible for well over 400,000 arrests and the seizure or recovery of more than $5 billion in illicit drugs and stolen property.

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