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Gordon Bassham: How Crime Stoppers works

  • Published Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Dwight Bradford used the media to voice his concern about not receiving the reward for a tip he said he had provided to Crime Stoppers (“Do right thing, Crime Stoppers,” Feb. 21 Opinion). Rather than refute the inaccuracies in his argument, Crime Stoppers feels it is more important to help the public understand how Crime Stoppers works.

The cornerstone of the Crime Stoppers’ concept is the value we place on the safety and anonymity of those who provide us with information that helps law enforcement solve crimes. Without this anonymity, many if not most tipsters could become victims of retaliation from those who committed the crime.

In its 34 years of existence, Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County has never revealed the identity of a tipster.

Someone who provides a tip to Crime Stoppers and then makes his or her identity public could be called to testify as a witness in the court case that results from the tip. If that person was paid a reward, the defendant’s lawyer could argue that the testimony was “bought,” thereby diminishing that person’s credibility before the jury.

Additionally, based on opinions voiced by prosecutors and from the national Crime Stoppers organization, it is in our best interest to ensure rewards are paid only to those who remain anonymous. If we reveal their identity, we could be held liable if they are injured by the perpetrator of the crime.

Every person who provides a tip to Crime Stoppers receives a secret number associated only with that tip. That secret number is vital because we use technology to block the tipster’s name and phone number. We never know his or her identity.

All tipsters are given their secret number only once. They are told to keep it in a safe place. Without that secret number, Crime Stoppers has no way of knowing if the person claiming the reward really is the tipster he or she purports to be.

This practice has been used by Crime Stoppers’ organizations across the country for decades. Unfortunately, there are some people who have tried to claim a reward that they are not due.

For Crime Stoppers, “doing the right thing” means transparency in working with the public, law enforcement and the media to make our community safer and more secure. The Crime Stoppers organization, which uses no tax dollars and relies on donations, is made up of citizens who are dedicated to fighting crime in our community.

Gordon Bassham is executive director of Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County.

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