As crime in the Virgin Islands continues to plague the community, a group of dedicated activists is taking an innovative approach to fight the problem.
Crime Stoppers USVI Inc. is a new non profit organization dedicated to combating crime by offering cash rewards for information which leads to arrests.
A core group of 13 volunteer trustees across the territory will oversee the local branch of the international group, which was launched in the late 1970s in New Mexico in the wake of a brutal shooting of a young college student.
Facing no leads in the case, Albuquerque Police Detective Greg MacAleese posted his personal money as a reward to encourage witnesses to come forward. It worked, and since then Crime Stoppers has spread throughout the world and led to the arrests of more than 750,000 criminals.
Citizens are offered up to $2,500 for information which leads to an arrest or the recovery of drugs or stolen property. The size of the reward is based on the seriousness of the crime and the resulting police action.
A citizen with information about a crime calls a toll free number — manned by volunteers — and shares what they know. All calls are anonymous and the caller is assigned a PIN number.
If the information does lead to an arrest, the citizen calls Crime Stoppers again and, using their PIN number, sets up an appointment to receive their reward. No names or identifications are ever requested.
Based on the principle that someone other than the criminal always has information about a crime, the organization works to fight community apathy and fear of reprisal by offering anonymity and paying rewards.
The organization is not run by the police, and calls are processed by volunteers. In addition to stemming the rising tide of crime in the territory, Crime Stoppers also works to foster a better relationship between the police, media and the community.
“Relationships and communication between the police, the media and the community will improve and, in time, our organized efforts will become a significant deterrent to crime here in the USVI,” according to information provided by Crime Stoppers.
Crime Stoppers is funded through tax deductible donations and membership dues. All work is voluntary, but funds are needed for training, phone bills and rewards.