At the intersection of crime and politics, a $5,000 reward is being offered for information on allegations of vandalism and car-tampering related to this year’s campaigns for Wichita City Council.
A group of business people have raised the reward for information leading to arrests in separate incidents directed at City Council member James Clendenin and unsuccessful candidate Joshua Blick, said Gordon Bassham, executive director of the Wichita Crime Commission, which operates the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line.
Clendenin filed a police report in January after loose lug nuts on his car came off, breaking mounting studs and nearly causing the car to lose a wheel.
Blick filed a report on vandalism at his home that took place late March 31 or early April 1. Damage included a smashed windshield and black X’s painted on his house.
Bassham, a former spokesman for the Wichita Police Department, said it’s the first time in his Crime Stoppers history that citizens have raised a reward to try to get to the bottom of political crimes.
He said the donors approached him because Crime Stoppers is the only avenue for Wichitans to anonymously tip off police to crimes.
The donors have asked to remain anonymous out of concern that they would be targeted if their names were publicly released, Bassham said.
Clendenin said he was driving his wife and three children to have campaign photos taken when he heard noise coming from the front of his car. When he stopped, he noticed that four wheel studs were sheered off and, of the two that remained, one of the bolts was backed off about halfway.
He said he initially thought a mechanic had failed to tighten the bolts when he’d had the car worked on about three months before. But he said that shop and other mechanics told him the problem would have shown up within hours instead of months if the lug nuts weren’t tightened.
“Somebody had to have backed them off or tampered with them,” he said.
At Blick’s house, someone used a loose brick from a front-yard planter to bash in his windshield and spray-painted black X’s on his windows and siding while he and his wife were asleep inside the house. Vandals also defaced campaign signs in his yard and his campaign billboard on Kellogg.
He said the damage was about $350 and he’s awaiting an insurance settlement.
“I understand that some people are really passionate about their causes and candidates,” he said. “But to go and turn it into violence is uncalled for.”
People with information on either crime can offer anonymous tips at the Crime Stoppers hotline, 316-267-2111. Tips also can be submitted online at www.wsccs.com, or by texting a message to 274637 and beginning the body of the message with the code TIP217.
To ensure anonymity, the call center strips all identifying information from the phone, online or text contacts before they are turned over to Crime Stoppers, Bassham said.