In the face of rising crime throughout the Virgin Islands, one program has hard evidence of its success — seeing criminals and guns taken off the streets.
One year after launching Crime Stoppers USVI across the territory, organizers are hosting a series of celebrations in recognition of the program’s achievements, which include more than 500 tips resulting in 75 arrests.
On St. John, Crime Stoppers’ celebration is on Wednesday, January 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Cruz Bay Battery. The public is invited to enjoy complimentary drinks from Prestige Wine Group and Bellows International and light refreshments from Cactus on the Blue restaurant while hearing about the program.
Crime Stoppers USA chairman Tom Kern and National Crime Stoppers at-large board member Tami Lawlor will be attending the party as well, explained Bonny Corbeil, a Crime Stoppers USVI St. John board member.
“The national chairman and at large board member are so impressed with our chapter they want to come down and celebrate with us,” said Corbeil. “They said we could expect only about half of the tips we got last year, so they are impressed with that.”
The totally anonymous program is a citizen’s initiative which takes the fear out of reporting crime, explained Corbeil.
“This is a citizen’s initiative that gives the power to the people,” she said. “People can trust Crime Stoppers because it’s totally anonymous. People don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
The program, which was originally founded more than 30 years ago and has chapters across the globe, is based on people calling a tip line and reporting criminal or suspicious activity. The tipster is given a pin number and the tip is passed along to the V.I. Police Department.
If the tip leads to an arrest, the tipster is eligible for a cash reward. While the monetary reward is a motivation to report crime, many people just want to get criminals off the streets, according to Karen Samuel, a fellow Crime Stoppers USVI St. John board member.
“The motivation is not the money,” said Samuel. “Often people don’t call back to collect the rewards. They just want the crime solved and the criminal off the street.”
Crime Stoppers is a volunteer organization, which depends on membership dues and donations to pay rewards. In the Virgin Islands, St. John is home to the most memberships, but the group still needs more support, according to Corbeil.
Membership costs are $50 for individuals, $10 for students and $100 for businesses, and all of the money funds rewards for tipsters.
While enjoying support from Governor John deJongh and all local senators, Crime Stoppers USVI is an apolitical organization, explained Samuel.
“While politicians support our work, what we do is not linked to any administration,” Samuel said. “This is a citizen’s initiative that is totally apolitical.”
Corbeil and Samuel have spent countless hours spreading the word about Crime Stoppers USVI and sharing information with volunteers on St. Thomas and St. John. Last week, however, they welcomed two new board members, Andy Rutnik and Gail-Ann Guy-Felix.
“I heard about the group when I first came back home to the island and then when I got settled on St. John, Bonny approached me about joining,” said Guy-Felix. “When I heard about the work they did, I was bought. I’m really into community advocacy and am excited to work to improve the lives of local people.”
“I want to make St. John a safe place for my children and other people’s children,” Guy-Felix said.
Rutnik jumped at the opportunity to join the group as well.
“I was asked to become a board member and I agreed because I am already impressed with what the group has done,” said Rutnik. “I’ve been involved with the crime issue — I’ve written about it and complained about it and I’ve seen a lot of initiatives fail.”
“I think if you’re going to complain about something you should be ready to participate in solving the problem,” Rutnik said. “Crime Stoppers is based on a really good theory where you put the public in a safe position. That’s why I think we’ll be successful.”
Everyone is invited to the January 20 celebration, Corbeil added.
“Everyone who cares about St. John should come out and hear about Crime Stoppers and celebrate all the great work we’ve been doing,” she said.
St. John Ice Company will be donating ice and Baked in the Sun is donating a delicious birthday cake for the January 20 Crime Stoppers anniversary celebration. Don’t miss the chance to hear more about this very worthwhile program and join the movement toward positive change.