We admire hero’s, from comic books to the silver screen the icon of a strong selfless individual motivated by doing the right thing is inspiring to most of us. It’s that romantic idea that is depicted into real life but far from it. Yet while the super human abilities might be science fiction, the desire to ensure justice is done can be ever attainable. Though it wouldn’t be smart to run out with a cape and mask, the organization of ‘Crime Stoppers’ has taken the world by storm in the last couple decades, proving that the local citizen can make a difference.
Crime Stoppers works closely with the RCMP but operates very differently, working more as an information receiver and anonymously presenting the given tips the the local law enforcement, and better solve ongoing crimes and investigations.
One of the biggest ways Crime Stoppers differs from the RCMP help line is the protection of the individual giving the tip. Everything about the organization is set up to ensure personal information is never required, not even to Crime Stoppers themselves.
“Crime Stoppers is completely and totally anonymous, nobody knows who you are. This is the one thing we always emphasize, that you are never, ever asked to give your name or identifying information.” Says Fran Myles; Vice Chairperson of Crime Stoppers Manitoba. “If you call into the tip line, your given a number. You do receive rewards, but you have to call us and ask us back because we don’t know who number 24 is”.
With intriguing beginnings, the founding story of this organization takes us back nearly 50 years ago as a Canadian Police Officer was working on an investigation in New Mexico. After promising a mother of a murder victim that he would see the investigation through, the officer did everything he could to close the case but rather found the evidence come to an abrupt halt.
Feeling burdened with not being able to keep his promise, the officer figured somebody would know something; key needed facts nobody would risk to tell. The officer went to the media asking them to publish the information with a reward for those who would anonymously call in about what they might know on the subject. The result was a success as the case was solved and closed within 72 hours of it’s release.
Being now on a global scale, the organization came to Manitoba in 1985 and currently holds three bases in the Province; one in Winnipeg, Brandon and a third covering Provincial wide, from the boarder to Churchill.
Thanks to the development of this program, Crime Stoppers is given millions of tips that have solved cases that are either ongoing or long shelved by the RCMP. In just the past three years Crime Stoppers have solved crimes of over 3 million dollars worth of property. And in the last 25 years locally over 13,000 tips were given.
Myles expressed just how pressed Police have become with crime, which in turn causes people to want to help and intervene, potentially putting themselves in harms way. This organization offers a better solution; “Historically what’s happening is society, when the Law Enforcement Agency is over-run with order, some people have the tendency of becoming vigilantes. They go out and do things on their own. We don’t ever want that happening, that’s not a good way, but with Crime Stoppers it’s an outlet for that kind of frustration”
While the RCMP is more responsible for arresting and investigating, Crime Stoppers offers the help, offering evidence for them to asses from the help of civilians. “If you phone the police directly they’ll ask you who you are and take your information, but as for us nobody on the tip line will ever ask for any information that identifies you” States Myles. “Basically, this is a way that you can help the police solve problems in your community and still stay safe”
Thompson District Commanding Officer; Paul Peddle stated while in Portage La Prairie that the biggest problem the RCMP has is that “We know people know things, but nobody wants to take a risk. People who know things about a crime are very often not willing to talk to the Police”. It’s for this reason Police Officials are highly in favor of Crime Stoppers working as the middle man to get information from those who want to help but wish to not get involved.
Myles further emphasized what sparked her passion to join this elite group, saying that while crime became personal to her with encountered break-ins to her home and vehicles, the desire runs deeper then that to the ending of human trafficking. Working closely with the boarder patrol, evidence that is known in local areas makes an enormous impact on the alarming issue. “It’s not a well known fact, but there is a fair bit of human trafficking in Manitoba”.
Being that January is Crime Stoppers awareness month gives us due diligence in being aware of our surroundings, reminding us that one voice can make a huge difference. If you see something suspicious of any relation, such as drug crimes, stolen property, or trafficking you can call Crime Stoppers at 1(800) 222-8477.
~Matthias J. Johnson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Thompson Citizen. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.