Houston Crime Stoppers audit incomplete after organization failed to provide all requested documents to Harris County Commissioner

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) — Since 1980, Crime Stoppers of Houston has provided its flagship anonymous tip line, strong victim advocacy and community programming.

“They are the last source of support for many of these victims who have nowhere else to turn,” said Harris County Pct. 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey said at a Commissioner’s Tribunal meeting in April.

But since that meeting, the nonprofit has come under intense scrutiny after two separate press investigations by The New York Times and ABC13 partner the Houston Chronicle claimed the organization had lost its focus and turned political, blaming Democratic justices for the bond’s problems.

“I think lately they’ve gotten a lot more political in a partisan way in my opinion. And hey, it’s perfectly legitimate for people to disagree and have their own preferences in terms of partisan politics, but I don’t think you should be using public money to do this,” Harris Co. Pct. 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said.

This is where a county audit comes in.

Ellis requested the audit in April to determine how much the county has donated to Crime Stoppers since 2012, how the money was used and whether the organization was meeting regulatory requirements.

The final audit, released this week, reports that the county has given about $7.2 million to Crime Stoppers of Houston over the past decade.

But the audit says their scope was limited while trying to determine how the funds were used because Crime Stoppers did not provide all of the documents requested.

“And then I was told there were difficulties getting the information for the Crime Stoppers audit,” Ellis said.

The audit says Crime Stoppers told auditors that some of the documents requested fell outside the nonprofit’s retention window and that they were not legally required to provide some of the information sought.

The organization, which has paid more than $12 million to more than 23,000 tipsters since 1980, according to the Harris Co. audit report, responded to ABC13 on Wednesday saying, “We categorically dispute any allegations of non- compliance that we plan to address. shortly.”

The Harris County Auditor’s Office said Sept. 1 that Crime Stoppers of Houston eventually agreed to provide additional requested information, but as of Wednesday they were still awaiting it.

County auditor Mike Post said he expects to have an addendum to the final report once those documents are provided.

For more on this story, follow Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can read the organization’s full breakdown, including what it had to say about its funding and judges on the Crime Stoppers website.

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Mark M. Gagnon