The Story of Crime Stoppers Then, Now, and the Future
Article by Gary Silveira
The story of Crime Stoppers started on September 8, 1976, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after a 20-year-old college student, working a morning shift at a gas station, was shot, and killed during a robbery. When the investigation ended up with no leads, the Police Department sought the public’s help to solve the case.
A reenactment of the crime was prepared and broadcast on a local TV station. The video provided a hotline where tipsters could call and remain anonymous. The detective said that calls poured in right after the broadcast. He stated, “The phone started ringing immediately. The second call was about a gang rape that happened a month before that we hadn’t been able to solve.” He added, it was the six call that finally gave a crucial tip regarding the homicide of the college student. That crucial tip resulted in the arrest of three suspects, within 72 hours. The first Crime Stoppers group was established soon after the success of the anonymous tip hotline.
Today, Crime Stoppers programs operate around the world, in the United States, Canada, Caribbean and Latin America, Europe, Austria, and the South/Western Pacific. Locally, San Luis Obispo County Crime Stoppers, through direct involvement and support of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, started in 1982, receiving its Non-Profit, 501(C)(3) status. Crime Stoppers is funded solely by private, tax deductible donations of money, goods, or services from the community, including businesses, corporations, clubs, associations, retailers, and individuals. We thankfully, continue to be fully supported by the SLO County Sheriff’s Department and have received multiple grants from the Sheriff’s Advisory Foundation, which offsets our overhead costs, allowing other donations to be utilized in paying rewards for tips on specified crimes. The Mission Statement of SLO County Crime Stoppers is, “Crime Stoppers is a partnership of the public, police and media which provides the community with a proactive program to anonymously assist in solving crime and contributing to an improved quality of life.”
From the early days of the “Tip-Line” being answered by the on-duty Watch Commander at the Sheriff’s Department, SLO County Crime Stoppers now has an additional, fully integrated, online tip submission program. Tips can now be submitted via the telephone hotline, by access through our webpage, or by using a free, mobile app. The real power of the online and mobile app is that tipsters, while remaining anonymous, can enter information in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Somali, French, Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic, Croatian, and Laotian. Locally, SLO County Crime Stoppers has assisted in cases involving homicide, arson, sexual assault, and theft as well as many other types of crime.
SLO County Crime Stoppers is mostly comprised of active and retired local Law Enforcement personnel and retired business professionals. We are expanding our Board and are currently looking for new volunteers who would like to assist our organization. We meet the first Wednesday of every odd month. If you are interested in joining or assisting us, please contact Chairperson Gary Silveira at (805) 431-3764.