When a petrol station attendant was fatally shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1976, detectives were stumped.
There was little information and no obvious suspect. So police took what was then a novel approach, re-enacting the shooting on television and offering a $1,000 reward.
Within three days a caller reported that they’d seen a car leave the scene at high speed and had taken down the registration plate. However, they hadn’t wanted to get involved by calling police.
This interaction showed the potential for making it easier for people to provide information anonymously about crime, and it marked the beginning of Crime Stoppers, which now operates worldwide.
More than a million arrests have now been made around the world based on community information.
This year not only marks the 20th anniversary of Crime Stoppers in Western Australia but it’s likely the State will pass 13,000 arrests since local records began in 1999.
Already, more than 100 calls are made to the Crime Stoppers number, 1800 333 000, each day. Last year more than 1,000 people were arrested as a direct result of information provided in this way.
Trained police call takers operate a special telephone hotline, with 90% of calls answered within 30 seconds. Along with the online reporting form on the Crime Stoppers WA website, this allows people to anonymously report crimes and suspicious activity in their community.
The call takers use the information they receive to compile intelligence reports for the WA Police to act on. In 2014, tips from the public led to more than 21,000 intelligence reports being compiled.
In each case, the call taker needs sufficient information to be able to act on the tip, so callers should make note of appearances, locations, times or other details that can help police investigate suspicious behaviour.
Callers and those making contact may also be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 from Crime Stoppers WA if the information they provide leads to an arrest.
Now operating in 30 countries, Crime Stoppers has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Albuquerque.
With an arrest made somewhere in the world every 14 minutes, Crime Stoppers continues to make a difference in protecting lives, property and the community.