Cash for crime tips: How Crime Stoppers works - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Cash for crime tips: How Crime Stoppers works

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The Crime Stoppers program has led to more than 10,000 felony arrests in its 34 years of existence in Nevada. (FOX5) The Crime Stoppers program has led to more than 10,000 felony arrests in its 34 years of existence in Nevada. (FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

You see it on FOX5 and FOX5Vegas.com all the time. Viewers and readers are encouraged to call or email Crime Stoppers in order to anonymously provide information about crimes with the lure of a cash reward.

What you might not know is the program has been around for 34 years in our state, leading to more than 10,000 felony arrests. 

Police say the most integral aspect of the program is anonymity. Remaining unidentified is crucial for the safety of witnesses.

When a tip leads to an arrest, the payout can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000. However, those behind Crime Stoppers claim money is usually not what motivates tipsters.

"That one call can mean the difference in capturing the suspect or saving another life," said Sgt. Steve Candelas with Metro's Robbery Section.

Candelas works extensively from tips received through Crime Stoppers.

"[We benefit from] having people call us when they've observed crime in their area or someone maybe that they've known or know has committed a violent felony," he said.

Multiple anonymous tips led police to arrest two men in late August. Surveillance video captured Abraham Austin, 28, and Robert Estall, 25, allegedly walking up to a house in broad daylight posing as Mormon missionaries.

Police said the two told a homeowner they wanted to speak to him about the church but instead robbed him at gunpoint.

"Because of the media release we did in regards to individuals involved with the incident, people started calling in through Crime Stoppers and we received numerous Crime Stopper tips," said Sgt. Erick Wilds with Metro's Robbery Section.

Police count on media releases, social media and surveillance video to get information out to the public in hopes someone will recognize a face and make that all-important phone call.

"Any tip that we get that solves a homicide, a robbery, a sexual assault, even if it's one to 100, that's a great thing," Candelas said.

If you witness a crime in Las Vegas, Metro police say it's critical to be a good witness. If you know the suspect, provide a full name or date of birth if you know it. If not, remember the face, what that person was wearing and if he or she has markings or tattoos.

"It's really important that the people who use this service know that it's anonymous and that they can safely report information," said Caroline Ciocca, chair of Crime Stoppers' board of trustees.

Ciocca works with community partners to obtain private funding to keep the program going.

"What's really interesting about our reward system is that 40 percent of the tipsters do not come back for the reward," she said.

Since the program's inception, $1.5 million has been paid out tipsters in Nevada. Nearly 210,000 tips were forwarded to law enforcement leading to thousands of arrests.

Since January of this year, 4,200 tips have been forwarded to police, leading to nearly 120 felony arrests.

"It give the public a vehicle [with] which they can really be proactive and feel like they can make a difference in their community," Ciocca said.

Police said every call, text or email they receive is encrypted, meaning they have no way of knowing who is contacting them.

If you contact Crime Stoppers, you will receive a code which will allow you to collect reward money in the event you qualify.

Crime Stoppers is in effect all over the country. In Nevada, it began as a program called Secret Witness. It is now southern Nevada's most successful nonprofit crime-fighting organization.

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