POSTED: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 1:15pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 1:19pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — In the past 30 years since Crime Stoppers of Baton Rouge was formed, they have helped to solved 11,059 felony crimes, helped retrieve $11 million in stolen property, and removed $16 million worth of illegal narcotics off the streets. In total, they’ve paid out more than $1.5 million for the tips that were responsible for those arrests.
“I’d say it is one of the most successful crime programs that you will find,” Sgt. Don Stone, Crime Stoppers Coordinator, declared. “We are involved in almost every major crime that happens in town.”
The non-profit organization has over a thousand established programs worldwide. Law enforcement agencies work directly with the program by providing an officer, such as Sgt. Don Stone who is employed by the Baton Rouge Police Department, to run the division. Although this helps to maintain appropriate connections with law enforcement agencies, the continued success is based on one fundamental principle.
“The entire program is dependent on the fact that the person who provides the tip stays anonymous,” Stone said. “The Crime Stoppers program has been in place for 30 years and in those years we have never released an identity of a caller and we never will, because we don’t know the identity.”
In 2011 alone Crime Stoppers of Baton Rouge was responsible for 432 felony arrest, which is an increase of 27 percent from the prior year. They took in a total of 21,073 calls. Now, a new texting system hopes to see the same success.
“All you have to do is send a text to the word CRIMES (274637), then in the text type CS225 and follow it with the tip you have,” Stone explained. “By putting in that code, that tells the system what department and where to send the text.”
Although Stone admits that the new texting system has not seen as much success yet as the original call center, or even the website-based tip system, he hopes it will catch on and provide another important crime fighting tool.
“One of the most valuable weapons the public has is your cell phone,” Stone said. “If you have a cell phone, you’re armed with a weapon. It’s the biggest crime stopping tool we have.”
Stone did note that the texting system has seen a jump in activity within recent months. Much of this he credits to an increase in public awareness.
“I’ve been speaking to several organizations throughout the city, attending community meetings, and talking to students,” he said. “Of course the younger generation texts more than others, so they might be more inclined to use the system. Also, we do have a lot of incidents in schools, so I like for students to know that they can notify us with a simple text.”
Stone also stresses that the texting system is just as anonymous as calling, but it provides one added value that the traditional phone system cannot.
“Once they text us, we actually have the ability to text them back,” he explained. “We aren’t able to do that with the telephone. Once we receive a telephone tip, we have to wait for them to call back. So if I have a few questions I want to ask, I can just send them a text back.”
Ultimately, however, Stone says that the system only works if the community utilizes it.
“You can’t rely on the police department to know everything that’s going on out there,” he said. “For citizens to have a way to contact police that’s totally anonymous, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t utilize it.”
Although providing tips is also important, the Baton Rouge Police Department notes that becoming more aware of your surroundings and vulnerabilities is the best way to prevent a crime from ever happening.
“I think people take for granted that they live in nice neighborhoods or in a populated area,” Cpl. Tommy Stubbs, BRPD, explained. “A lot of times when people are victims of crime it’s because they were not paying attention to what they’re doing. They will leave their windows or blinds open. They don’t lock their cars. They think that because they have a good address that will prevent them from being a victim, but generally when people steal, they go to the place where people have nice things.”
Stubbs said that the Baton Rouge Police Department is not currently seeing a spike in crime, but they have seen an increase in activity in particular parts of town, such as the LSU area. Much of that is related to robbery or theft.
“Pay attention to your surroundings,” he advises. “Don’t hesitate to go somewhere in a group. Don’t travel off the beaten path.”
Keeping aware of your surroundings could ultimately prevent you from being the victim of a crime, or it could allow you to see critical information that could help solve a crime happening to someone else.
“Program the word CRIME into your cell phone,” Stone said. “Utilize that weapon, which is your cell phone.”
Crime Stoppers of Baton Rouge services an eight-parish area. The number to that call center is (225) 344-STOP (7867). Tips can also be provided online at www.crimestoppersbr.com .