Crime Stoppers USVI officials from all three islands gathered at Bolongo Bay on St. Thomas on Saturday, September 7, to celebrate four years of existence and focus on how to keep the organization going strong.
The international non-profit crime prevention organization was launched in the Virgin Islands in 2009, thanks large to a letter penned by St. Croix activist Alan Brown.
“In early 2009 the senate was getting concerned about the level of crime in the territory,” said Brown. “The senate was going to set up another government agency to come up with some kind of way for people to anonymously send tips. I said, ‘There already is a program available in the states that does this, why don’t we just adopt that.’”
Brown wrote a letter about Crime Stoppers’ effective use in communities from New Mexico to Alaska, That letter was printed in a local newspaper and the Crime Stoppers idea began to catch on, he explained.
“I presented the idea to James McCall who was the police commissioner then and he loved the idea,” said Brown. “Along with Judi Fricks and two other people who are no longer involved with the program, we proceeded and put the program together.”
Crime Stoppers is based on community members sharing what they know about crimes in their neighborhoods through a totally anonymous system. Calls to the organization’s 1-800 number are routed through several computers systems which make tracking someone’s identity impossible. The same anonymity is assured using the text option or email to report tips as well.
Without the fear of retribution, community members are free to help solve crime and even earn award money — which is arranged anonymously also — for information leading to the recovery of stolen property.
Since kicking off in February 2009, Crime Stoppers USVI, has received a total of 1,922 tips as of September 18, according to Brown.
“The big accomplishment is that people are taking responsibility for keeping their neighborhoods and their islands safe,” said Brown. “And it is the people who are doing it. Everyone is getting together on this.”
The Crime Stoppers program works by sharing information with the public on a weekly basis, through printing information in local newspapers and airing stories on local radio programs and television, explained Brown.
“The press on radio, TV and print, all of you guys have been putting out the word this program exists,” he said. “Running our weekly releases keeps Crime Stoppers in front of everyone and in their minds.”
Another crucial part of Crime Stoppers’ success is its partnership with law enforcement, Brown added.
“The police are definitely helping by taking our tips seriously and following up on them,” he said.
Before Crime Stoppers launched, Brown was repeated told that the program would never work in the Virgin Islands.
“People told me that no one is going to snitch on anyone,” said Brown. “Well as of today we have gotten 1,922 tips, so people are talking. People are taking responsibility and holding their friends and neighbors accountable.”
Crime Stoppers is a completely volunteer program and four years after starting it, Brown remains as dedicated today as he was in 2009.
“I sailed into St. Croix in 2007 and loved it,” he said. “I saw the potential and I saw the problems. I just wanted to try to make a difference and the Crime Stoppers program has made a fantastic difference.”
Looking ahead, Brown hopes even more residents begin to supply tips to Crime Stoppers and become members of the all volunteer organization, he explained.
“I’d like to see Crime Stoppers continue to flower and blossom,” he said. “There are still and awful lot of people who either don’t totally understand the program or don’t believe they are totally anonymous. The way the program is set up is fool-proof.”
“There is no way anyone can find out a tipster’s identity,” said Brown. “People need to step forward and give the information needed to solve crimes in our community. The information is going to be gladly accepted and followed up on by law enforcement.”
With no federal or local government support, Crime Stoppers relies on membership dues, Brown added.
“We are totally all volunteer and we get no federal funds or state funds or territory funds,” he said. “We are running thing program entirely through memberships from individuals and businesses.”
At the Crime Stoppers USVI recent annual meeting, St. John resident Bonny Corbeil was elected the group’s chairperson. The meeting also included a presentation by Crime Stoppers USA Chair John Lamb.
For more information on Crime Stoppers USVI and how to become a member, check out the group’s website at www.crimestoppersusvi.org. To report a tip, call the toll-free number 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). To text the tip, text “USVI” plus the message to CRIMES (274637), or send a tip via email through the group’s website.