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January 9, 1998

At last Monday's meeting of Rotary, Police Chief Fred LeValley and Assistant Chief Tim Davidson told local Rotarians about the Crime Stoppers program which is nearly ready to become operational here. Crime Stoppers offers private citizens an opportunity to become actively, but anonymously, involved with the solution and prevention of crimes. As the two officers noted, citizens are too often deterred from aiding in the solution of crimes by choosing not to "become involved," even though they have knowledge that could be helpful in bringing the perpetrator to justice. Crime Stoppers will get around that by doling out monetary rewards for valid tips and information without revealing the source.

The Neighborhood Watch Program, which was initiated here perhaps ten years ago with a similar mission but with different tactics, has been inactive the past seven or eight years, Davidson said, mostly because the neighborhoods themselves ceased to function as citizen patrols. Crime Stoppers requires no formal organization of neighborhoods or any other sub-division. If you know something about a crime, you call the Crime Stoppers number and report it. You'll be assigned a code name and a password to be used in future communications, and your real name will not be known to the public. Full details of the program will be announced very soon when all of the preliminary groundwork has been laid. That process so far has required two and a half years of planning and filling out forms by police officers.

A civilian (non-police) board of directors will guide the operation and decide on the amount of rewards to be paid for various crimes. Although police officers will not be directly involved with the board, Chief LeValley, Assistant Chief Davidson and Sheriff Jerry Cook will serve as advisors to provide liaison with their departments.

Crime Stoppers is a national program with incorporated, autonomous chapters in individual communities. It is operating successfully in Tonkawa, Ponca City, Stillwater, Enid and other cities surrounding Perry. Davidson acknowledged that there is no practical way of knowing how much, or how little, Crime Stoppers has deterred crime in areas where it has been instituted. While that aspect is a little vague, common sense tells you that it must have an impact. When a thoughtless act of vandalism is about to be committed, a miscreant might think twice about chances of getting away with it if he/she thought someone was watching. Vandalism was described by Chief LeValley as the hardest type of crime to solve because usually it is senseless and there are no witnesses, or at least none prepared to step up with information the police can use. With Crime Stoppers, they'll be paid for their trouble.

Citizen participation will be a critical need if Crime Stoppers is able to achieve even a modicum of success here. That means you and I and all others in this community will have to help by providing tips when we know something that might help officers solve a crime. Maybe we could start by carrying a notepad and pencil to jot down the tag numbers of folks who make illegal U-turns around the square, or who break any other laws in this little town of ours. It couldn't hurt.