What is the secret ingredient that has made Crime Stoppers a community success for the past 23 years in Western Australia? As a board member of Crime Stoppers WA for the past five years, I can answer that question in one word – anonymity.
The anonymity concept originated in 1976 when a police officer televised a re-enactment of a crime he was investigating in New Mexico. He hoped that this activity would prompt the memory of eyewitnesses who were promised anonymity and a reward if they contacted police with information. While the reward was important, the promise of anonymity was deemed to be the critical success factor in this case. Since then, Crime Stoppers’ anonymity initiatives have been implemented across all Australian States and Territories and worldwide.
The importance of the anonymity promise was supported by research conducted by the British Home Office in 2003 and recent research conducted by the Sellenger Centre at Edith Cowan University. Both research projects found that while members of the public contacted Crime Stoppers because they felt it was the right thing to do, they indicated the assurance of anonymity was the overarching reason they would disclose information.
As a not for profit organisation another important contributor to the success of Crime Stoppers is the support from State Government and other private agencies through sponsorships and pro bono work. These partnerships have allowed Crime Stoppers WA to work very closely with the community to report what they know about past, present or future criminal activity. In that vein, Minister Michelle Roberts is to be complimented for the recent initiatives to increase the rewards for information relating to Josh Warneke, Raymond and Jennie Kehlet and Lisa Govan. Details of these rewards can be found on the Crime Stoppers WA home page.
The community’s continued trust in Crime Stoppers WA has resulted in the public making over 1,000 reports a week regarding criminal activity, of which approximately seven out of every ten of these contacts are deemed to be of value for police investigation purposes. In the past five years, the number of police information reports compiled from Crime Stoppers’ contacts increased by almost 50 per cent resulting in Crime Stoppers WA having the highest report conversion rate to police intelligence and activity per 100,000 of population across Australia. In addition, a 2015 report from PWC Australia found that for every dollar invested in Crime Stoppers, the community receives a 29 dollar return in terms of the reduced fear of crime, police productivity savings and the value of drugs and property recovered.
Based on community feedback, Crime Stoppers WA updated its website to make it easier for members of the public to make a report online, while still remaining anonymous. Online reports now make up one third of all contacts to Crime Stoppers WA and in line with current digital trends, 70 per cent of these reports are made via mobile phones.
While Crime Stoppers WA will promote and leverage the partnerships between the State Government, the WA Police and private businesses, the continued success of Crime Stoppers is dependent on your support – remember we are interested in what you know; not who you are, so if you know something please say something.
Opinion piece in The West Australian 14 November 2017
Associate Professor Pamela Henry is Chair of the Crime Stoppers WA Board and Director of the Sellenger Centre for Research in Law, Justice and Social Change at Edith Cowan University.