Crime Stoppers tipsters give aid to police

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 6, 2013 

Ninety-nine criminals were arrested in 2012 thanks to tips made to Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers.

Tipsters helped law enforcement officers identify an unknown suspects often caught on store surveillance footage stealing goods or using someone else's credit cards.

They also provided information on wanted fugitives so cops could track them down and put them in jail.

In all, 538 tips were provided to Crime Stoppers last year and the nonprofit agency received 482 follow-up calls, said Mike Blatman, the law enforcement coordinator for Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers.

December was the busiest month of the year with Crime Stoppers tips resulting in 20 arrests and clearing 75 open cases, Blatman told the Herald.

"Several of the cases were thefts -- organized retail thefts," he said. "There was a group in Sunnyside that was hitting Vancouver, going up and down the I-5 corridor and in Yakima and Tri-Cities."

A total of 306 cases were cleared in 2012 through Crime Stoppers, down from the 410 cases cleared in 2011, but Blatman still considered 2012 a "good year."

In 2011, 95 arrests were made from 541 tips.

Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers pays a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information that results in a felony arrest, but most tipsters don't claim the reward, Blatman said.

Last year, just 19 rewards were paid out for a total of $3,500. Since Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers started in 1985, $72,950 in rewards were paid.

Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and tipsters can remain anonymous, which often is more important than collecting cash, he said.

The arrests made in 2012 also pushed Crime Stoppers above the $2 million mark for recovered property and drugs, Blatman said.

"It doesn't seem like much, but a vast majority (of arrests) are wanted people," he said.

For 2013, Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers is hoping to expand into Benton and Franklin County's jails.

The idea is to let inmates view a sort of slide show in the jail displaying pictures of fugitives or suspects officers are trying to identify.

"There's a wealth of information inside the jail," Blatman said. "If there's a way to collect information and help solve crimes, that will be great."

But, Blatman said, Crime Stoppers won't cut deals with inmates who provide tips on fellow criminals.

Calls still will be confidential -- officials are working on setting up a system where the Crime Stoppers call won't be recorded similar to when an inmate calls their attorney, he said.

Inmates also still will be eligible to collect rewards for successful tips, and Blatman said they'll be able to designate a third party to pick up the reward if they're locked up.

"I think it will be successful," Blatman said, adding that it doesn't cost any more money to display the wanted bulletins in the jails.

Also next year, officials are planning additional fundraising events throughout the community and looking for more volunteers and members to join the board.

Anyone with interest in helping Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers can call Mike Blatman at 582-1351.

For Crime Stoppers tips, call 586-8477 or go to www.tricitiescrimestoppers.org.

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