Welcome to the Wisconsin State Crime Stoppers, Inc. Web Site!

From Our President,
K. Scott Abrams, CPA, CGMA

                                 The Integrity of Crime Stoppers


Crime Stoppers has been an effective crime-fighting tool assisting law enforcement agencies since 1976. This success can be evaluated by looking at the statistics from around the United States and in Wisconsin.  During that time, there have been 716,000 arrests and over 1,062,000 cleared cases in the United States while here in Wisconsin, local Crime Stoppers programs have been involved in over 13,800 arrests and 14,700 cleared cases!


These are astounding results.  The success has been predicated upon maintaining the anonymity of the tipster and offering rewards to eligible tipsters. As you may recall, Crime Stoppers has been so successful in obtaining information through anonymous means appealing to the public where once there was apathy, fear of reprisals and lack of confidence in law enforcement. Therefore, the integrity of the program is focused primarily on the anonymity of individuals providing information to Crime Stoppers.  This has been the cornerstone of Crime Stoppers!


Recently, Crime Stoppers USA has received complaints and comments involving breach of that anonymity.  There have been reports that some Crime Stoppers organizations are now asking for the tipster’s name. Another common complaint is that some Crime Stoppers programs are using answering devices during off hours or when no one is in the Crime Stoppers office. In other cases, some tipsters have mentioned that the Crime Stoppers tip line is being answered by the law enforcement agencies dispatch or other law enforcement officers not associated or familiar with Crime Stoppers.


This is a serious breach in the basic tenets and Crime Stoppers operations and potentially violating the integrity for all Crime Stoppers organizations!  Best practices call for Crime Stoppers organizations acquire and maintain a separate Crime Stoppers phone line that has no identifying information included, such as caller ID or an answering machine. The Crime Stoppers organization should be receiving and paying the associated phone bill for the tip taking line. Since we want to accept anonymous tips on a 24/7 basis, the organization should look into acquiring a service that answers Crime Stoppers tip calls, such as Alternative Answers or Crime Scene Information, which are reasonably priced. If that is unacceptable, leaving an outgoing message to inform the tipster what hours of operation are available to call in anonymous tips.


With the advent of electronic services, text messaging, web tips and smart phone tip applications, the ability to keep the tipster anonymous is extremely viable and cost-effective. With these means of two-way communications and maintaining the anonymity of the tipster, there should be no reason a Crime Stoppers program should be seeking a name from an informant.  Ever!


In many cases, when we reached out to these local programs currently seeking a tipsters name, it is being done based on lack of knowledge of how Crime Stoppers operates. For example, there may have been staffing changes over the years with different program Coordinators and the best practice of not asking for a name from the tipster just wasn’t passed along to the new Coordinator.  This exemplifies the need to maintain appropriate job descriptions, checklists and the standard operating procedures so this information can be handed down upon transition from one Coordinator to another.


Crime Stoppers has been successful for over 40 years. Please maintain the appropriate standards and best practices so Crime Stoppers will be here for generations to come making our communities safe and secure for everyone!


The Value of Crime Stoppers


In my professional capacity, I have served in the tax-exempt finance arena for over 40 years primarily as a financial manager and chief financial officer. The profit margins in many tax-exempt organizations is very slim, if there is any margin at all. Therefore, much scrutiny is taken when any new program or service is proposed and its impact on the bottom line. Many in the finance industry would call this a return on investment. In the tax-exempt industry, particularly when there are services provided, many would ask what is the value this service may provide or the value added to the organization.


Crime Stoppers programs are sometimes asked what is the value Crime Stoppers provides to the community.  The most common answers provided by Crime Stoppers programs is to share some of the wonderful statistics our programs have generated over the years. For example, the number of arrests associated with an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip or how many cases have been solved, many of which may have been cold cases up until that point. Of course, programs also point out to the stolen property recovered and drugs seized from an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip. Finally, these programs may also identify a dollar amount or how many rewards have been paid out on behalf of solving these cases. These are all excellent pieces of information to share with the community.


However, is there a useful statistic or calculation to share in quantifying a value that Crime Stoppers may provide to the community.  In finance, return on investment, in its simplest form of calculation, is taking the benefit, or return, of an investment and divided by the cost of that investment.  Unfortunately, the numerator and denominator in this equation are not readily available to Crime Stoppers programs to show a value in this manner.


Many Crime Stoppers programs have been recently confronted with their law enforcement agency partners indicating that budget reductions need to be made and sometimes the most logical choice seems to be reducing the amount of manpower provided to the local Crime Stoppers program. Is there an easy way to share with the law enforcement agency partners that by cutting or eliminating the Crime Stoppers Coordinator hours may actually cost the law enforcement agency more money? I think you can!


Understanding that most local Crime Stoppers organizations are based on an all volunteer, community board and one of their primary missions is to receive anonymous tips and pay out cash rewards to those eligible, the local Crime Stoppers organization has a very lean overhead component in solving crimes. On the other hand, if the Crime Stoppers organization did not exist and law enforcement had to undertake the resolution of a particular crime from start to finish without an anonymous tip, what would be the cost on solving that case? 


Allow me to share a hypothetical community example. Let’s say a particular law enforcement agency has an annual operating budget of approximately $25 million, and the number of cases cleared during the year amounted to 1000. By an easy calculation, this would suggest that it costs approximately $25,000 in clearing each case. On the other hand, the local Crime Stoppers program in the same community, through its anonymous tips, have assisted in solving over 100 cases during the year and paid out rewards of $20,000, or $200 per solved case.  (Note, $100 is the average reward paid by Crime Stoppers throughout the United States, as reported by Crime Stoppers USA statistics).


The correlation drawn from the above hypothetical example is that without a local Crime Stoppers program, solving a case from start to finish by the law enforcement agency alone costs $25,000 as opposed to receiving a Crime Stoppers tip which costs the local Crime Stoppers program $200 and no cost to the law enforcement agency (since rewards are paid from donations received by Crime Stoppers). This is the value of Crime Stoppers to the local community! To extrapolate this information further, if a local Crime Stoppers organization did not exist in the community and every case had to be solved from start to finish by law enforcement personnel only, this would potentially increase the law enforcement agencies budget by $2.5 million ($25,000 to clear a case times 100 cases solved by Crime Stoppers anonymous tips), or solve less crime without the added manpower.


Of course, Crime Stoppers can’t take all the credit as it is important to understand that an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip doesn’t immediately close a case, as there is additional investigative and paperwork that must be completed before an arrest and charges are made. However, Crime Stoppers usually provides a significant shortcut to law enforcement agencies in getting to this investigative stage with the name of a suspect, a license plate from a car or some other significant information which cuts down the required manpower in resolving an outstanding crime.


Crime Stoppers is becoming one of the invaluable tools in the toolbox for law enforcement agencies.  There are many pressures on many of our chiefs and sheriffs in responding to operating budget challenges.  Remember to be advocates of the Crime Stoppers tool when meeting with your local law enforcement agency officials. Crime Stoppers is a very important tool in their crime fighting tool box and a value to the community!