CrimeStoppers USVI celebrates 5 years of making islands safer Your anonymous tips at work


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ST. THOMAS - Five years ago, a group of residents concerned about the growing crime problem started an anonymous crime hotline so that the community could share what they knew about crimes without putting themselves at risk.

They were told that it would take a few months before they started receiving calls.

"They told us not to expect our phones to ring right away," said Sen. Judi Buckley, who helped to found CrimeStoppers USVI, the territorial division of the national organization. "The phones started ringing immediately."

And they have not stopped ringing - at a press conference Wednesday marking the organization's five-year anniversary, CrimeStoppers has logged more than 2,000 anonymous tips.

CrimeStoppers began receiving calls before the local branch officially began operating after media promoted the organization before its official start in January 2009.

Assistant Police Commissioner Lt. Thomas Hannah recalled the first report that CrimeStoppers received.

"It was a burglary. We even recovered the stolen property," Hannah said Wednesday, crediting the recovery of the property to the call to CrimeStoppers.

Since 2009, CrimeStoppers USVI has received 2,007 phone calls from the community, and even a few from outside the territory.

Because of those calls, 201 arrests have been made, 239 cases have been cleared and 25 fugitives have been captured.

Additionally, 592 people have faced criminal charges as a result of calls made to CrimeStoppers USVI.

"CrimeStoppers can only operate with this partnership - that partnership with police, media and the community," said Bonny Corbeil, current chairwoman of the CrimeStoppers USVI board of trustees.

Members of the nonprofit, which operates solely on donations from supporters, met with law enforcement officials Wednesday to thank them for their collaboration and to underscore the need for further assistance from the public. Currently, only 13 volunteer trustees oversee the operations of the local branch of CrimeStoppers.

Volunteers primarily reach out to the community to try and help them understand how to use the hotline and when to use it.

However, local volunteers do not take the calls. Calls to the hotline are directed to Houston so that the anonymous calls cannot be traced back.

"We cannot trace the calls. We do not even attempt to trace them," said V.I. Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr.

Almost all of the contributions taken in by CrimeStoppers are funneled to rewards for those whose tips lead to any kind of retrieval or finding of evidence, or arrest of a suspect.

Since the nonprofit's inception, it has approved $153,827 in rewards, though only $64,596 has been collected. Tipsters can receive up to $2,500 for a tip, depending on how it helps law enforcement.

Most of the reward money never is collected, Buckley said, because people just want to help make their community safer.

No one exemplifies that more than one of the volunteers, Julien Henley, who joined CrimeStoppers USVI in August 2008.

"I wanted to make a difference. At the time, there was a lot of mistrust with the police," Henley said.

Only two months later, Henley was shot in the back while out at a night club on St. Thomas. Since then, he has been in a wheelchair, but the incident did not stop him from returning to CrimeStoppers.

"My passion has been the same," Henley said.

For more information about CrimeStoppers USVI, visit www.crimestoppersUSVI.org or email crimestoppersVI@gmail.com.

To report a tip to the anonymous tipline, call 1-800-222-8477.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.Since 2009, the 2,007 anonymous crime tips that CrimeStoppers USVI has received from residents have led to:

- 201 arrests

- 239 cases cleared

- 25 fugitives caught

- 592 charges entered

- 98 weapons recovered

- $226,871 in recovered property

- $316,850 in drugs seized

- 184 rewards approved

- Numbers provided by CrimeStoppers USVI

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