Near North Crime Stoppers coordinator discusses program with councils

The Near North Crime Stoppers Coordinator promotes and educates the program to town councils in the Almaguin Highlands.

Lemieux told the Burk’s Falls council that the program works because it’s able to ensure the anonymity of tipsters. “People feel safe tipping,” he said. Lemeiux said the three main components are the public, the media and the police. “For every crime committed, someone other than the person who committed the crime knows about it.” However, people with knowledge of a crime are reluctant to come forward for a variety of reasons. “There could be a fear of retaliation, an apathy where they don’t want to get involved or don’t like to appear in court,” he said. “That’s where Crime Stoppers comes in with the anonymity component. The public provides the information and we in turn pass it on to the police. The media helps promote the program when Crime Stoppers releases a statement about an unsolved crime. When the police investigate a Crime Stoppers tip, they notify the organization of the outcome so that Crime Stoppers can reward the whistleblower with a cash reward if the tip is found to be conclusive. Crime Stoppers is present in many communities across North America. It was created in 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when a detective asked local media to piece together an armed robbery at a gas station where a murder had also taken place. Lemieux told the Burk’s Falls council that Albuquerque police had “very little information about how the crime was committed.” But when police offered a $500 cash reward for information about the crime, the case was solved within 5 p.m. The key to tipping was that the tipster’s name would remain anonymous. News of how the police solved the armed robbery spread, and with other departments copying the method, Crime Stoppers was born. The program came to the districts of Parry Sound and Nipissing in 1988 and was named Near North Crime Stoppers. Locally, Near North Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards ranging from $50 to $2,000 and the social media era has recently seen the agency set up a website and Facebook page. Lemieux says 82% of all tips that come into Near North Crime Stoppers are online. When a tip is made online, once the individual presses the send button, the encrypted data is transmitted to two different servers. One is in the United States and the other is in Ottawa. This further enhances the anonymity of the tipster. “So if I were to trace the information, the best I could do is only come back to the web address of the two servers,” Lemieux said. “It is impossible for me to return to the computer from which the information was sent.” If someone calls Crime Stoppers, Lemieux says they don’t ask their name. “Additionally, we don’t have any call tracking capabilities and we don’t record calls,” he said. Before passing the information to the police, Lemieux further guarantees a tipster’s anonymity by omitting any information the person gives that could reveal their identity. “So, for example, if the caller says ‘my neighbor is dealing drugs,’ I’ll remove the neighbor reference so the police don’t know who provided the information,” Lemieux said. Lemieux was the coordinator of Near North Crime Stoppers for 20 years and he has seen a trend develop where more tipsters don’t want the cash reward. He says about 75% of those who submit a tip decline the reward.

“They do it because it’s the right thing to do.” Since the program’s success depends on anonymity, Lemieux says the downside is that Crime Stoppers can never “bring about a specific tip” where police seized numerous drugs worth tens. thousands of dollars. “And also we don’t go public and say ‘see it works.’ The drugs seized by the police were the result of a tip-off from Crime Stoppers,” Lemieux said. But the local organization compiles statistics annually and since its inception in 1988, Near North Crime Stoppers has received 21,000 tips that led to 1,740 arrests. These arrests resulted in the payment of $250,000 in cash rewards. But the two numbers that Lemieux is extremely proud of and that show how well the program works is that over the course of During this time, Crime Stoppers has recovered $4.3 million worth of property and cash, and “we also got $57.3 million worth of drugs off the streets. When a person submits a board, she is given a special board number and password “and it is that person’s responsibility to check from time to time whether the board was successful or not. Lemieux claims that Near North Crime Stoppers is 100% funded % through fundraising campaigns nt local. Each year, the agency raises between $50,000 and $60,000 to help pay for the rewards it distributes, purchase promotional materials and computers, and also pay for a part-time executive director. It operates out of the North Bay Police Department headquarters, which keeps costs down. Lemieux’s part-time salary as a coordinator is covered by the policy. The Crime Stoppers van is a donation, but Crime Stoppers pays for the expenses associated with the vehicle such as annual insurance. One area in which Crime Stoppers receives provincial money is to help pay for an after-hours answering service, since the local office cannot be staffed 24/7. same provincial funding is available to all Crime Stoppers offices that do not have 24-hour in-person service. The COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years has severely hampered fundraising efforts, but what really helped the organization during this time was its ability to sell Nevada tickets to North Bay, Sturgeon Falls and Parry Sound. Near North Crime Stoppers’ two main fundraisers are the Celebrity Jail-A-Thon, which Lemieux says could be back next year, and the annual golf tournament. After a two-year hiatus, the golf tournament will return to Highview Golf Course in Powassan on August 26. Lemieux says the board is dedicated and has very little turnover. The administrators are all volunteers from various backgrounds, including retired police officers. The composition of the board is such that surrounding communities outside of North Bay are also represented. Crime Stoppers has the same tip number across Canada – 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted online at www.nearnorthcrimestoppers.com Since it is a charity, anyone can also donate to Crime Stoppers and if the donation is $20 or more , a tax receipt is issued. Burk’s Falls Mayor Cathy Still praised Lemieux for the great work Crime Stoppers is doing in both districts. “It’s a worthwhile program,” she says. “They don’t receive any funding from anyone and watch the good work they do.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works at the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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