HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Depend On Tips In War On Drugs
Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jan 2002
Source: Cambridge Reporter, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Cambridge Reporter
Author: Mary-Louise Skornyak


Anonymous tipsters were an invaluable source of information to 
regional police in their war on marijuana grow operations in Waterloo 
Region last year.

Because of Crime Stoppers' anonymity policy and not tracing calls or 
using call display, residents seem more comfortable sharing 
information about illegal activity they suspect is happening in their 
neighbourhoods, said Sergeant Jim Erstad, head of the Waterloo Region 
Crime Stoppers.

"From a policing standpoint, it's been an effective tool because it 
provides information to police they wouldn't normally get otherwise. 
It's a starting point, from which investigators can build a case," 
said Erstad, who before joining Crime Stoppers last January was a 
member of the regional police drug squad.

While all the statistics for 2001 haven't been compiled yet, Erstad 
said information from Crime Stoppers resulted in a "significant 
number" of drug raids in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo last year.

In total, Crime Stoppers received 924 tips last year that led to 80 
arrests and 166 criminal charges being laid. As a result, regional 
police seized 40 weapons and took $1.5-million worth of crack cocaine 
and marijuana off the streets.

While it wasn't a record-breaking year, Erstad said 60 outstanding 
cases were solved as a result of the information provided through 
Crime Stoppers. But not everyone who aided police is as interested in 
cashing in on the reward as "doing the right thing." Each year 
rewards authorized by the non-profit organization go unclaimed.

While Crime Stoppers works closely with police, it is an independent, 
self-funded organization whose daily operations are determined by a 
volunteer board of directors. Regional police pay Erstad's salary and 
the wages of a full-time civilian assistant, as well as providing 
office space at police headquarters on Maple Grove Road. But that's 
were the police connection ends.

Because the tips received are anonymous there is no way for officers 
to track down the people who provide them, nor is there any fear the 
tipster will have to testify in court.

That fear is one of the main reasons why the public doesn't want to 
get involved in testifying against a criminal.

With Crime Stoppers, that fear is eliminated and people have peace of 
mind in knowing they didn't turn the other cheek without risking 
their personal safety.

There are some 900 Crime Stoppers programs world wide, with 41 of 
those in Ontario. The Waterloo Region chapter was formed in 1987 and 
since its inception efforts have concentrated on heightening 
awareness in the community.

"One of the greatest tools we have is the media, who get the message 
out to the public," Erstad said.

In addition to The Cambridge Reporter, other area newspapers, 
television and radio stations regularly spotlight unsolved crimes as 
a community service.

Last year, Crime Stoppers added "sandwich signs" to its arsenal. The 
two-sided signs are posted at crime scenes throughout the region or 
where investigators are concentrating their investigation. Not only 
do the signs keep the community informed about what's happening in 
their neighbourhood, it may end up encouraging more people to call 
with information about the crime and lead to an arrest.

As good as the program is doing, Erstad said plans for 2002 include 
tapping into a new source - high school students.

"The goal is to raise Crime Stoppers awareness in the region's high 
schools," he said.

The program, which is still being developed, would encourage students 
to report drug use or any other crimes in the schools without the 
fear of being labelled a snitch.

And this month - which is Crime Stoppers month in Ontario - the local 
chapter will be hosting an appreciation night Jan. 24 to recognize 
its community partners.

Other Waterloo Region Crime Stoppers highlights:

* More than $134,000 in stolen property and proceeds of crime was 
recovered in 2001.

* Since 1987, there have been 1,471 arrests and 3,437 charges laid as 
a result of Crime Stoppers.

* A total of 1,981 cases have been solved in the last 14 years.

* And 914 cash rewards totalling more than $180,000 have been 
authorized to be paid out since 1987.
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