Crime Stoppers reaches milestone
They have taken thousands of tips to help keep the South Okanagan safe, and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers program.
Since 1992, more than $13.3 million worth of drugs and stolen property have been uncovered thanks to tipsters who have called, texted and emailed their information to the South Okanagan chapter.
“It works. It is probably one of the most cost-effective crime fighting tools the police have worldwide,” said Al Sismey, regional co-ordinator for the South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers program.
January has been declared worldwide as Crime Stoppers month for the not-for-profit volunteer organization that collects anonymous information, passes it along to the appropriate investigative body and pays cash rewards to tipsters for successful information. It is not a police program and relies solely on the generosity of the business community and citizens to fund its operations through tax deductible donations. Those who provide information on crimes have their identity protected and they never have to testify in court.
Sismey, a former RCMP officer, is a founding member of the South Okanagan Similkameen program.
“It’s been pretty neat to watch the support and awareness grow over the years. When you know a program is good and beneficial to everybody in the community that is important to people and helpful to us when we go out fundraising,” said Sismey.
Since inception, South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers has received 5,719 tips and more than 12,600 calls overall, resulting in 740 arrests and 842 cases cleared. The program has also paid out 233 rewards for information that resulted in 42 weapons being seized, $1.8 million in property recovered and $11.5 million in drugs seized. This past year they have recovered more stolen property than drugs.
“It was a good year. The number of tips was a bit lower this year, but I am certainly happy with the results. The important thing is that not everybody does it for money and that is always nice,” said Sismey. “It is rewarding to see people are becoming more comfortable with the Crime Stoppers process and trusting it. I could say quite easily that out of the 5,700 tips we received, 95 per cent of those would have not been made to police directly. I guess that means the $13.3 million of stolen property and drugs recovered would still be out on the street, or at least a good portion of it.”
Over the 20 years, Sismey has seen many changes in the program including the advancement of technology. Crime Stoppers tips can not only be received over their toll free number, but via the Internet, text messages and smart phone applications.
“If you don’t keep up with the world spinning around you, you aren’t going to be successful, and the fact it still all remains anonymous is obviously very important. People probably are more skeptical of the safety of using the Internet, but we can guarantee anonymity and we make sure we can before they roll out any of these applications. If we can’t maintain that anonymity, we aren’t going to use it because we don’t want to identify anyone,” said Sismey.
“In 20 years, we have come a long way.”
Crime Stoppers is always looking for new volunteers to join their board of directors. Sismey said the main role is to come up with new fundraising ideas and awareness through public speaking to service groups or school children.
Meetings are held once a month, except during the summer when there are none, and Sismey believes at maximum it takes 12 hours per month of volunteer time.
“We have had a very successful year assisting the police in keeping our communities as safe as possible, providing an environment that is safe to live, work and play in,” said Sismey. “Crime Stoppers looks forward to another productive year ahead, through community support, in our combined efforts of fighting crime.”
Anyone interested in having a Crime Stoppers presentation or who has questions can contact Sismey at 250-770-4721. If you want to provide an anonymous tip, call the toll-free number 1-800-222-8477(TIPS) or visit the website www.southokanagancrimestoppers.net.