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Crime Stoppers tipsters not after the reward; they want safer communities, executive director says

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, May 12, 2013, at 7:13 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, March 24, 2014, at 12:36 p.m.

Hundreds of dollars in Crime Stoppers rewards go unclaimed annually, according to the director of the organization.

Although rewards can be retrieved at any time, only a few tipsters tend to pick up the money they are due when their information helps lead to an arrest, said Gordon Bassham, executive director of Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County, which bills itself as “a nonprofit organization of citizens against crime.”

Last year, $1,585 of $9,055 – not quite 18 percent – in awards approved by Crime Stoppers was retrieved, he said. In 2010, tipsters collected only two-thirds – $5,580 of $8,350 – of rewards; in 2011, $425 of $3,325 was claimed.

“A large number of the rewards approved go unclaimed because people are more concerned with taking the bad guys off the streets” than with the money, Bassham said.

“We feel most people call Crime Stoppers … because they want to make our community safer and more secure.”

Crime Stoppers played a role earlier this month when four people were arrested in connection with the death of Jordan Turner, a former Wichita South High School football player whose body was found in a cotton field in southeast Sedgwick County. An investigation revealed that Turner, 19, was shot at least twice on March 31 in the field near 127th Street East and Pawnee.

Sedgwick County sheriff’s Capt. Greg Pollock said at the time that “a gentle nudge” in the form of a Crime Stoppers tip led investigators to the suspects. Three of those arrested were later charged with first-degree murder in connection with Turner’s death. The fourth person arrested was released.

On average, Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County each month receives and processes 160 to 170 tips, which can be submitted anonymously by phone or text or through the group’s website, Bassham said. After software strips a message of identifying information, a tipster is given an individualized tip number and told to check the tip’s status periodically.

If a tip leads to an arrest, more software calculates the award based on factors such as the type and severity of the crime. The figure is then turned over to the Crime Stoppers’ advisory committee for approval.

Those who earn a reward are instructed to pick up cash at a bank at a specific time.

Tipsters who don’t check back, though, don’t know whether they are due a reward.

“If a person is owed a reward … and doesn’t claim it, it just sits there,” Bassham said, adding that about $8,000 a year is budgeted for award payouts.

Top-dollar rewards of $1,000 are issued in cases such as homicides or drug busts involving substantial weapons seizures, Bassham said. Other felonies, including reports of drug activity – the subject of most tips received – draw rewards of $250 to $500, while information leading to arrests in some misdemeanors may bring $50 to several hundred dollars, he said.

Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County was founded in 1980 and is a division of the Wichita Crime Commission, a group of citizens who take a proactive stance against crime.

Anyone with information about area crimes is asked to call 316-267-2111 or submit tips at www.wsccs.com or by texting TIP217 then a message to CRIMES (274637) from a cellphone.

Crime Stoppers tipsters remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.

“It is very heartening to know that so many people in Sedgwick County clearly understand the need to help put bad people behind bars,” Bassham said.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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