Crime Stoppers to up its visibility

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One of the strongest draws of new residents and businesses to Bossier City and Parish is the low crime rate and the sense of safety most feel living in this community. Local residents can look for that to continue as our law enforcement agencies step up efforts to increase community involvement in those law enforcement efforts.

Bossier residents should expect to see higher visibility of the city/parish’s Crime Stoppers program, according to Mark Natale, Bossier City Public Information Officer. On Tuesday Natale was joined by Bossier City Police Chief Shane McWilliams, Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington, Bossier City Detective and Crime Stoppers coordinator Brandon Huckaby, and members of the Crime Stoppers Board to step up that visibility, and let the community know how the program works.

In short, folks who anonymously share information/tips about crimes with Crime Stoppers are eligible for cash rewards if those tips lead to an arrest or grand jury indictment.

Huckaby explained that in his experience as an investigator, a major problem was the reluctance of members of the community to share information. Crime Stoppers, he said, is the best way to get around that problem.

Sgt. Jim Taliaferro, Shreveport Police Department, is Caddo Parish’s Crime Stoppers coordinator, as well as the Regional Director for Crime Stoppers USA’s Region 5 (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). In a visit following Tuesday’s event, he agreed with Huckaby’s observation and added that “anonymity is the key to” the success of the Crime Stoppers program.

“Crime Stoppers provides the opportunity for anonymous tips – (to us) they don’t have a name, just a code number … there’s no caller ID, e-mail and text messages are scrubbed … we take a lot of precautions to protect that anonymity, such as 256-bit encryption,” Taliaferro said.

Taliaferro also detailed how local Crime Stoppers rewards are funded, which includes both fundraising revenues and a portion of the criminal fines collected by local court systems.

Taliaferro said that the fine-based funding is limited by state law for use by the receiving Crime Stoppers agency to advertising efforts and payment of rewards. And he explained that Crime Stoppers programs do not have paid employees; boards are strictly volunteer, and coordinators are assigned and paid by local law enforcement.

Finally Taliaferro pointed to the critical collaboration of the public, media and law enforcement in the overall success of the Crime Stoppers program.

Tuesday’s event was an opportunity to give Bossier residents a better understanding of the local program. Natale said the community can expect more advertising of the program as well as visibility in the parish’s schools and at public events.

“Crime Stoppers has been proven as an effective crime fighting tool,” said Julian Whittington. “Our purpose today is to get the word out – we’ve got money available and we want to give it away.”

Many tips received by Crime Stoppers are in response to media notices highlighting press releases from Natale’s or Bill Davis at the BPSO of crimes and requests for those who have tips to call the Crime Stoppers hotline. But Natale explained that it’s not just press releases that result in calls to Crime Stoppers – some people call in to report what they know of a crime.

Bossier residents are invited to support this important public safety program. The Bossier Crime Stoppers number is 424-4100; those who prefer on-line contact can do so at www.Bossiercrimestoppers.org.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at m_carlso@bellsouth.net