Crime Stoppers on an aggressive media campaign in San Pedro

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Crime Stoppers has been operating in Belize for some years now but are now moving swiftly on an aggressive media campaign on Ambergris Caye. The surge in crime on the tourism dependent island is asking neighborhood watch groups, the business sector, law enforcement agencies and the media to partner and educate local residents to utilize Crime Stoppers to give tips/information about any crime while remaining anonymous. The campaign will be in the form of television, radio and newspapers, placement of banners and signs and even including visits to schools and other interested target groups.

While Crime Stoppers is not taking the responsibility of the local police to investigate crime, it serves as a vehicle for tippers to give information to a total professional entity. Once Crime Stoppers collect the information from the tipper, the same information collected is then passed on to the local police, and in many cases, the information helps to solve crimes. The call to Crime Stoppers Belize at the 0-800-922-TIPS (8477) toll free line is answered by professionals, at the Crime Stoppers Miami Dade call center in USA. The system is set up in such a way that the calls are untraceable, making it impossible to know the identity of caller. The trained operators, who in many instances are detectives, at the call center will ask the caller specific questions. The information collected by the operator is then passed on to investigators in Belize so as to make arrests. The caller will also be given a fake name or a code number and will asked to make follow up calls to find out if the information led to an arrest of the offender. Once an arrest is made and the person is charged by Police in Belize, the tipper with the use of the fake name or code number will be able to collect a reward for the information given to Crime Stoppers. Through the same hotline, the tipper will be able to make arrangements for collecting their reward by selecting any of the nominated payment locations set up in Belize. The payment is also made anonymously without the need for the caller to reveal their identity and with the use of their fake name or code number.

Chief Operating Officer for Crime Stoppers Belize Chris Garcia, along with Miami Dade Crime Stoppers Executive Director Richard Masten, and Retired Detective and Miami Dade Crime Stoppers Call Operator Valerie Hall paid a special visit to San Pedro where they met with representatives from the various neighborhood watch groups, the business sector, local police and the media. The trio gave the group an overview of what Crime Stoppers Belize has been doing, how it has been working, its success stories and the way the program works in an effort to encourage the islanders to use the service to help solve crime. “We do know that we have had success stories on the island but we need to do more marketing in San Pedro. There are so many neighborhood watch group that we can team up with as well. The good part with this island is that we have an active community that wants to ensure that they can keep the island crime-free and safe,” said Garcia.

Miami’s Richard Masten further elaborated on the Miami-Belize relationship in terms of Crime Stoppers. “In the case of Belize, we in Miami have partnered with Belize. We answer the incoming calls, which in some cases, jurisdiction is a major consideration. In a small community, people are concerned that even their voices will be known or the community is so small that everybody knows everybody else. When someone calls from Belize, that call goes into our Miami office where detectives collect the information. After that information is completed it is passed on to the detectives in Belize. So there is absolutely no contact between the person giving the information and the person who gets the information in the Police Department in Belize.” He emphasized that the calls are untraceable and callers are absolutely anonymous. Valerie Hall explained: “When a call goes into the office, we take our time because we know our caller has vital information. The caller will give us the information, street location and other specifics like the house or the name or nickname of the person in regards to the crime. We then compile that information into a report and we will give our caller a tip number. When we give them a tip number, we also give them instructions on how to give us a call back. Call backs can be anywhere between three to five days or past 30 days. The reason being is that there might be follow up question that we may need to ask you that the detectives in Belize would need or may be a lengthy investigation and the investigator may need more time to look into the report or they may need additional information for the report. Information is over 100% essential because the information we get through Crime Stoppers, the local investigator might not have, or they might just have bits and pieces. Information that is given to Crime Stoppers is like pieces to a puzzle and any little detail can be a piece to the puzzle that can help solve a crime.”

According to Garcia, as of recent, with the use of the Crime Stoppers hotline in Belize, the police department was able to successfully make arrests and charged two people for carnal knowledge in separate cases in San Pedro Town. In addition, through Crime Stoppers Belize, police in San Pedro were able to make arrests in the death of Antonio Almandarez, which occurred in 2005.

Crime Stoppers Belize is a partnership with Crime Stoppers Miami and the Rotary Club of Belize. In Belize, Crime Stoppers is funded by fundraisers and small grants obtained from time to time. The success of crime stoppers is totally dependent on the people of Belize in helping finance the program and promoting it. San Pedro too can help build a safe and peaceful Belize. Anyone wanting to know more about how they can help with the initiatives of Crime Stoppers in San Pedro can get in contact with Amanda Syme at Sunrise Realty on Barrier Reef Drive. Everyone can help in the fight against crime by calling 0-800-922-TIPS (8477) and report any crime.

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