Nov. 8, 2016 • New Crimestoppers program works

Lassen County’s newest crime fighting effort — dubbed Crimestoppers — is already showing positive results.

Jim Uptegrove, the city of Susanville’s interim police chief, introduced the local program, patterned after a similar effort in Galt, California.

Uptegrove spoke about the new program at the Susanville Rotary Club’s Wednesday, Nov. 2 meeting.

Jim Uptegrove, Susanville’s interim police chief, explains the new Crimestoppers program to the Susanville Rotary Club Wednesday, Nov. 2.

He said Crimestoppers actually began in 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the detective investigating the case went to the media in an effort to get some information regarding the murder of a gas station attendant. A $1,000 reward was offered, and within 72 hours he had the description of vehicle observed leaving the scene of the crime.

In the years since then, the program has led to more than 500,000 arrests and recovered property worth millions of dollars.

In Galt, law enforcement had no leads on three bomb threats, and three mothers got together and started the successful program.

“We used it for everything,” Uptegrove said,  “and we made multiple arrests from it. So when I came up here, I saw some opportunity. We have some local crimes we weren’t making any headway on, so I thought, let’s talk about a Crimestopper program, and we started one up.”

Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon also joined the program to help get leads in crimes in the county as well.

The group had its first meeting in early September, and by the end of the month it had a board of directors, a bank to help pay out the rewards and an accountant working on nonprofit status for the group.

“It’s taken off big time,” Uptegrove said. “Crimestoppers is a partnership between law enforcement, the media and the community.”

He said law enforcement will use the media to post information about suspects they can’t locate or crimes they can’t solve, and they ask the public for tips or clues in exchange for a reward. Tipsters are given a code name or a code number, and once the reward has been made the tipster simply goes to the bank and collects their award in cash based upon their code.  The process is completely anonymous.

“We don’t ask for names or anything,” Uptegrove said. “We don’t care who you are.”

The program launched in the Lassen County Times, Susanville Stuff and other media sites Oct. 11 and so far the program has generated information that’s led to three arrests.

Uptegrove said the paper’s delivery begins on Monday night, and Crimestopper posts on other media sites at the same time and by 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, the calls started coming in.

“People are watching,” Uptegrove said. “They’re paying attention.”

He said the California Highway Patrol is seeking information through the program regarding a second vehicle that may have been involved in the recent fatal hit and run on Johnstonville Road.

“We’ve received some information on that, and we’ve passed it on the CHP,” Uptegrove said. “We’ll follow up and see if that was beneficial.”

He said the information provided by the public does not have to lead to an arrest or a conviction to be eligible for a reward — it simply has to further the investigation.

The program seeks donations, and right now it is funded by donations from the Susanville Police Officers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and several local businesses.

After the holidays, the chief said the group will hold a fundraising event.

He said in Galt the Crimestoppers page was one of the best read in the newspaper, and some advertisers requested their ads run on that page.

“Readers would look at the obituary page and make sure their names didn’t show up,” Uptegrove quipped, “and then they looked at the Crimestopper’s page to make sure their names didn’t show up.”

Uptegrove said those who want to report a crime should still call the local law enforcement agencies, the dispatch center or 911,

But those will information about a crime should call 502-8477 (502-TIPS).

He said law enforcement frequently will get tips about crimes that haven’t even been reported yet.

He said this program also fits well with Neighborhood Watch and crime fighting programs as well.

But Uptegrove said the program will really help when there’s a major crime in the future, and people step forward with information.

“By keeping this current and active, and people know that it works, that’s when it will pay off for us,” Uptegrove said.

The challenge for law enforcement, Uptegrove said, is following up on all the tips they receive.