VIPD hopes to boost crime reports with Crime Stoppers' text-in tip line


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ST. THOMAS - It is easier than ever to anonymously report a crime.

V.I. Police recently started promoting a service that has been around for five years, though it has not received much attention in that time.

The service, the ability to text a crime tip anonymously, is a service of Crime Stoppers USVI, a nonprofit that runs both a phone-in and text-in anonymous tip line for people who want to report crimes without running the risk of revealing their identities.

Crime Stoppers is a nationwide program that has existed since 1976, though the territorial branch started only five years ago. In that five years, police have been promoting the number for the tip line to the public, though they rarely mentioned that the public also has the ability to text the same information.

To date, the organization has received only 31 tips via text message, even though it is one of the most popular ways to communicate. That means, of the more than 2,000 tips that Crime Stoppers USVI has received, less than 2 percent were from text messages, according to Alan Brown, civilian coordinator for the group's board of trustees.

The low percentage may be a result of the average age of tipsters, most of whom are likely older and less savvy when it comes to technology, Crime Stoppers USVI volunteers said.

The police are hoping to boost the number of tips that Crime Stoppers USVI receives via text message, according to Melody Rames, spokeswoman for the V.I. Police Department.

After receiving requests from the public, the police starting adding the number for text message tips to their press releases.

"Crime Stoppers has been a big help," Rames said.

The police still receive a high volume of calls, she said, but Crime Stoppers USVI certainly receives its share.

Just this month, the group, which consists of 13 volunteers in the territory, reported six tips already.

To keep the calls anonymous, they do not go to the volunteers and instead go to Crime Stoppers call centers on the U.S. mainland.

The calls cannot even be tracked back to the caller, Crime Stoppers officials said.

"It's a big wall getting people to trust here," said Bonny Corbeil, chairwoman of the Crime Stoppers USVI Board of Trustees.

The trust between the community and Crime Stoppers appears to be building, based on the numbers.

To date, Crime Stoppers USVI alone has recovered nearly $562,000 in property, including weapons, and drugs. It also has approved more than $158,000 in awards to tipsters.

In addition, 207 arrests have been made and 246 cases have been cleared as a result of tips made to the organization.

"There's no reason to be afraid. You don't have to worry," Corbeil said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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