Editors note: this is the first in a series of four weekly articles dedicated to Crime Stoppers month.
Most of its work is done by a dedicated group of volunteers who are devoted to anonymity, but even South Okanagan-Similkameen Crime Stoppers likes to step out occasionally.
The local group is joining others across Canada in January to celebrate Crime Stoppers month by explaining how it goes about running a service that helps get bad guys off the street by providing cash incentives to no-name tipsters.
“It’s our month to sort of get up in the public eye,” said Bob Ogden, president of South Okanagan-Similkameen Crime Stoppers.
In its first two decades in this region, the group received anonymous tips that helped police recover $1.8 million in stolen property, seize $11.5 million worth of drugs and make 803 arrests, according to its 2013 report.
Ogden leads a board composed of 11 other volunteer directors and one paid co-ordinator who works directly with local RCMP on community policing matters.
The longest-serving board member is treasurer Fred Gartrell, a retired banker and Summerland orchardist, who signed up in 1999 at the urging of friend and former co-ordinator Gord Fleebe.
“I really don’t like the amount of crime that goes on in our communities and the effect it has on so many people,” said Gartrell, “and so I feel I can do a small part to try to get some of those people off the street and prevent some of those crimes from happening.”
Another long-time director is secretary Jane Przioda, who joined in 2004 and brought with her experience in bookkeeping and Citizens on Patrol.
“I want to keep busy. I’m retired now, I’ve got a little bit more time and I’ve always had an interest in giving back to the community,” she said, “and I find this is a good way to do it.”
Ogden described Gartrell and Przioda as “very dedicated and very hardworking,” and said continuity and transfer of knowledge at the board level is vital to any such group’s survival.
“They’ve been at it a long time, and you’ll notice with volunteer organizations that unless you sort of have an idea of succession planning, you run the risk of drying up and dying,” he said.
Ogden, who has been with the Crime Stoppers for four years, said his career as a Mountie made volunteering with the group an easy decision in his retirement.
“I benefited from Crime Stoppers tips,” he said. Plus, “I’ve got the time and I know a little bit about how the RCMP works.”
New members are always welcome to join Crime Stoppers, particularly to help plan and operate the group’s annual June golf tournament, which is its biggest fundraiser.
For more information, visit www.sostips.ca or check out the Crime Stoppers public display Saturday at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre or at an upcoming Penticton Vees game.