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Crime Stoppers Track Down Funds at Rotary

Oct. 10, 2008 — With the Crime Stoppers USVI tip line about to start up, the St. John team was at the island's Rotary Club Friday to ask for help with funding.
"We're asking businesses, individuals and nonprofits to contribute," team member Paul Devine said to the more than a dozen people who attended the meeting at the Westin Resort and Villas Beach Café.
Crime Stoppers is a worldwide program with a toll-free number for people to call in tips. When a tip results in an arrest, the caller gets a reward of up to $2,500. All calls are anonymous.
The tip line is based in Texas, with volunteer organizations around the world — like the one in the Virgin Islands — raising reward and operational money. Devine said the trained phone operator forwards the tip to Lt. Tom Hannah, the Crime Stoppers liaison at the V.I. Police Department. He passes the tip along to the appropriate officials and follows up to make sure the Police Department took action.
If the officer assigned to the case doesn't respond, he or she will face disciplinary action, Devine said.
When the caller phones in the tip to Crime Stoppers, he or she receives a Personal Identification Number. After the arrest is made, the caller provides the PIN number to the Crime Stoppers tip line to collect the reward.
Anonymity is the key, which Devine and team member Bonny Corbeil hope will overcome the reluctance of some witnesses to come forward with information.
"There's so much fear here for people to get involved," Corbeil said.
However, Corbeil said that with an anonymous tip line, people will feel it's safer to report what they see.
Territory-wide, the Crime Stoppers program needs to raise $165,200 for fiscal year 2009. Of that figure, Devine said after the meeting that $100,000 will go for rewards.
So far, St. John has raised $3,150, Devine said.
Corbeil hopes the Crime Stoppers will help some people overcome their mistrust of the Police Department. Some Rotary Club members said police have been unresponsive.
But Corbeil urged that people "put aside all your past experiences."
While the Police Department had its own reward program, Devine said it didn't work because the person who made the tip had to appear in court. There is no such requirement with the Crime Stoppers program.
As the economy worsens, Devine said residents should expect crime to increase.
Crime Stoppers is an arm of the territory's Community Integration Team, a volunteer organization that helps the Police Department with programs such as the Auxiliary Police.
In addition to Devine and Corbeil, Andy Stillman, Helen Simon and Karen Samuel are on the St. John Crime Stoppers team.
For more information on Crime Stoppers, contact Devine at the St. John Community Foundation office. The number is 693-9410.
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