By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
For the first time since 1994, Craig residents will be able to police themselves, as the Crime Stoppers program has returned.
Crime Stoppers is a citizen-run program that collects evidence and tips anonymously, and if the information provided is helpful in a solving a case, a reward is issued.
The program originated in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1976. Detective Greg MacAleese started the program locally, and it became a national program in 1979.
This year, the Craig Police Department and the Moffat County Sheriff's Department began the process of organizing a citizen-based Board of Directors, to create and oversee a Crime Stoppers' program for Craig and Moffat County.
Resident John Ponikvar was approached by law enforcement officials to act as the president of the board, and be responsible for filling the other positions.
"Chief Vanatta asked me if I was interested in spearheading this program," Ponikvar said. "He came to me with a list of potential people for the board, and I started to organize the program. But, I haven't done it alone."
The board consists of Dean Hollenbeck, Tonya Griffith, Stacy Mathers, Jane Krogman, and Linda Booker.
Ideally, Ponikvar said the board would be comprised of 10 people, and he is still looking for others that would be interested in serving.
"We need the support and help of citizens to make this work," he said. "With the recent terrorist attacks, and the President asking us to be vigilant and aware of what's going on around us, this is a good time for a program like this."
A tip that helps in solving a crime can be worth up to $1,000 cash.
If a caller wishes to remain anonymous, a code is given to the caller.
After 90 days, the caller can use the code to see if an arrest has been made or if charges have been formally filed. If so, a reward will be given.
The Crime Stoppers Board of Directors decides what the amount will be, based on the crime being investigated, the value of the information and the level of cooperation offered to investigators, Police Administrative Sergeant Henry Stoffel said.
"A program like Crime Stoppers can be a very valuable source of information," Stoffel said. "We still receive some anonymous tips from the community without the program, but this gives them an opportunity to receive a reward for their help and assistance.
This program can receive tips on any crime that happened anywhere if the information is about a crime in another area, that tip will be forwarded to the departments that are handling the case.
"One thing that is important, is that local law enforcement doesn't influence how the money is awarded. That decision is up to the board."
Remaining anonymous is an option, and those who call-in information may be asked to come forward to work with investigators, however, the final choice is theirs, according to Stoffel.
The program is donation driven and Craig Crime Stoppers has already received funds from the Bank of Colorado, First National Bank of the Rockies, Community First National Bank, NAPA Auto Parts, the Craig Police Department and the Moffat County Sheriff's Department.
The program also received a phone and answering machine from Jackson's Office Supply.
Craig Crime Stoppers will not have a representative available 24-hours a day, but instead, will take messages and instructions on how to call the next business day to receive a reward code, Stoffel said.
"The board has done a wonderful job organizing the program and getting it up and going," Stoffel said.
The Crime Stoppers Board of Directors will meet next on Oct. 29 to finalize its Articles of Incorporation and begin organizing efforts for future fundraising.
If you have information about any crime, call Crime Stoppers at 824-3535. Anyone interested in serving on the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors should call John Ponikvar at 824-3284.