Our View: The value of Crime Stoppers

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In the past few weeks, we've seen Craig residents becoming more involved in learning what they can do to combat the drug problem in Craig.

On Thursday night, the Yampa Valley Landlords Association gathered to discuss how to stop criminal behavior among renters. Recently, we also have witnessed the Meth Task Force grow from an idea to an active group of working committees, and we've seen schools hosting meth awareness training for parents.

At all of these meetings, officers have been urging residents to be vigilant about the signs of criminal activity and to report them to police.

One tool that has been underused by the community is the Moffat County Crime Stoppers program, which provides a way for residents to report crimes anonymously. It even offers rewards for information that leads to a conviction, though the Crime Stoppers board has the discretion to award payment for information that leads to an arrest or prosecution.

Sgt. Bill Leonard of the Craig Police Department is a member of the Crime Stoppers board. Members have been frustrated, at times, by a lack of participation in the program. But Leonard is optimistic the program is about to improve because Public Safety Center dispatchers will get training this fall to answer the Crime Stoppers hotline (824-3535) at all hours.

Currently, an answering machine picks up after regular hours. But as soon as the Safe to Tell program is established, the hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day.

Craig should have its own Safe to Tell hotline before Jan. 1. The number will be the same as the existing Crime Stoppers number. Similar to Crime Stoppers, Safe-to-Tell provides a hotline for students to speak to a trained caller anonymously. Any information they share is forwarded to the proper officials and is investigated.

A legislative act protects the caller's identity. Callers are given a number, and dispatchers are trained to stop the caller if they start to release any self-identifying information. When dispatchers are trained in how to take the information, they'll staff the phones for Crime Stoppers and Safe to Tell.

Craig Intermediate School Principal Don Davidson, who has some experience with the Safe to Tell program in another school district, found that rewards play little into the callers' decisions to report crime. Mostly, callers want to do the right thing.

We would hope that people aren't motivated solely by the prospect of a cash reward to report criminal activity in our community. We'd prefer they do it out of some concern for the quality of life. However, if they're looking to do the right thing, but fear some kind of reprisals for talking to police, Crime Stoppers is a good place for them to turn.

"It's pretty safe to say that every time a crime occurs, somebody else knows about it besides the person who did it and the victim," Leonard said.

If you're interested in serving on the Crime Stoppers board, contact Leonard at the Craig Police Department. The board has had difficulty finding enough volunteers to keep the board positions filled at all times.

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