Public helped law enforcement nab 92 fugitives in 2011

Law enforcement officials often say they can't do their jobs alone -- they need the public's help in reporting and solving crimes.

The public stepped up this year, helping Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers arrest 92 fugitives featured in "wanted" bulletins and close 400 cases, said Mike Blatman, the law enforcement liaison for Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers.

Through Dec. 28, Crime Stoppers received 530 tips from people identifying suspects featured in Crime Stoppers bulletins or telling authorities where to find a suspect.

Some of the tips also were called in about suspects who hadn't been featured in Crime Stoppers bulletins but were wanted by police.

"There's 92 people who were arrested as a result of calls to us," Blatman said. "Would they have been arrested at some point? Perhaps, but that was a direct result of people calling in."

Calling Crime Stoppers is a way for tipsters to provide confidential information to authorities while remaining anonymous.

Crime Stoppers also pays cash rewards of up to $1,000 for information that leads to a felony arrest, but not everyone calls in tips to get cash.

"The vast majority don't ask for rewards. The vast majority just want the anonymity," Blatman said. "The absolutely most important part of the program is the anonymity. People do ask for the reward, but not as many people as are involved."

Since 1985, $69,500 in rewards were paid to Crime Stoppers callers.

This year, just 15 tipsters collected money -- up one from last year's 14, Blatman said.

Reward money is raised by fundraisers throughout the year.

Crime Stoppers tipsters also have helped police recover $1.98 million in property and drugs since the program started, he said.

Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers released information about wanted fugitives through local media and its Facebook and Twitter sites.

Response to the bulletins is often quick, with suspects being identified or arrested the same or following day.

Just two weeks ago, Jeffrey Curtis Talbott-Jones was sought by Benton County sheriff's deputies for second-degree escape and two warrants for failing to appear in court.

The 31-year-old Kennewick man was featured in a Crime Stoppers bulletin Dec. 15, and was in the Benton County jail by 10 a.m. Dec. 16.

Blatman said tips to Crime Stoppers also have helped identify suspects in thefts from stores or check or credit card frauds that police weren't able to identify.

Often, the only information authorities have to go on is a blurry picture from a store security video, but there usually is someone who knows the suspect and can identify him or her from the photo.

Even if a tipster doesn't have specific information on a suspect's whereabouts, the tip often can lead police to other information that then leads to an arrest, Blatman said.

"We also have people go turn themselves in," he said.

In early December, a man featured in a Crime Stoppers bulletin trying to identify a suspect who was cashing counterfeit payroll checks in the area actually called in after he saw his picture in the Herald, Blatman said.

The man, however, said the photo looked like him, but it was not, and he wanted to talk to an investigator about it, Blatman said. A meeting was arranged with a detective, who knew he had his suspect as soon as the man walked into the office, Blatman said.

The man reportedly confessed during the meeting. His name was not released because he has not yet been arrested or charged.

Blatman said he also works extensively with the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force to apprehend wanted suspects.