Police: Tips prove useful against crime

By Laura Ude

Illinois State Crime Stoppers released their year-end statistical report last week which confirmed statisticians’ and police officers’ beliefs that the organization is continuing to become more effective. The statewide statistics show that 1,657 cases were solved in the past year and $123,845 of rewards were paid.

Although the state is able to collect statistics from most programs, there is still no exact way to tell how Crime Stoppers is doing year to year, State Statistician Don Gustin said.

“We don’t keep a year-to-year comparison, so there’s no absolute way to judge from year to year,” Gustin said.

When it comes to Champaign County, however, John Hecker, president of the Crimestoppers Board in Champaign, said that certain changes do indicate that the local program is being used more frequently.

“We are finding that we are getting more phone calls about criminal activity and solving more crimes,” Hecker said. “Each year, more people are aware of us and are using our tip line.”

Hecker’s beliefs are reflected in Champaign County’s statistical report that shows 933 arrests have been made and $56,610 in rewards have been paid, along with $431,543 worth of property and $687,511 of narcotics recovered, since the program started 20 years ago.

Even though the amount of rewards paid seems high, it does not reflect the increasing amount of calls that have been made. Hecker said 60 percent of the callers never call back for their $1,000 reward.

Just six days ago, Champaign’s Crime Stoppers took its 300th call for the year, which is a great step forward because it did not take the 300th call until September last year, said Gary Spear, crime analyst for the Champaign Police Department.

“Crime Stoppers is an extreme benefit for Champaign County because of those extra tips and leads,” Spear said. “There are such a tremendous number of leads we wouldn’t get otherwise.”

The tips that police officers receive from Crime Stoppers have allowed them to make arrests much more quickly, saving a lot of money and investigative time, Spear said.

After a recent Crime Stoppers state meeting, Hecker said, compared to other nearby programs, Champaign County is getting stronger each year. “The state officers were very pleased with what we are doing here in Champaign,” Hecker said.

The only area in which Champaign County always looks for improvement is in its exposure to the University of Illinois population, Hecker said.

“There is a lot of criminal activity on campus and a lot goes unreported,” Hecker said. “Hopefully we can somehow have a greater presence on the (University) campus.”