Nanaimo residents might notice a more prominent presence by Crime Stoppers in 2020.
January is Crime Stoppers Month, when the organization, formed in 1976 in Albuquerque, N.M., looks back on past successes and to planned projects for the year ahead.
Nanaimo and District Crime Stoppers – an organization run by volunteers that pays rewards for tips made anonymously that lead to arrests – was initiated in 1990. Since then, more than 9,800 tips have helped chalk up 550 arrests, $1.4 million worth of recovered property and $19,600 in cash and has taken $9.2 million worth of illegal drugs of the streets.
“We had a very successful year. Our tips were up almost 10 per cent,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo and District Crime Stoppers coordinator, adding that the organization approved a little over $3,000 in cash rewards to tipsters.
Along with recovered drugs, property, cash and criminals taken out of circulation, Crime Stoppers is directly linked to the seizure of nearly 40 weapons.
“We’re talking guns, Tasers, prohibited weapons all across the board,” O’Brien said.
In 2019 Crime Stoppers expanded its partnership with the city, especially in combatting bike theft, with the installation of signs on Nanaimo’s cycling and multi-use trails that listed contact information for Crime Stoppers and promoted Project 529 Garage, a bicycle registry program that helps prevent theft of bicycles and recovery of stolen bikes.
“We were able to fund most of the signage and they are displayed prominently throughout the city because bike theft is a significant issue and we felt that Crime Stoppers was a deserving partner of that,” O’Brien said. “We are continuing with our very successful document shredding campaign. We raised a little over $4,000 from that and in fact we’ll be doing another one in the new year.”
Nanaimo Crime Stoppers also hosted a Vancouver Island-wide training day at Nanaimo RCMP detachment in 2019 for all of the Island’s Crime Stoppers coordinators and board members. The event featured guest speakers who discussed improvements to Crime Stoppers operations and how the organization can improve its promotion to raise awareness in the communities in which it operates.
Crime Stoppers is not funded by taxes, is non-profit and must raise its operating budget through donations from fundraising efforts, such as the annual document shredding events that sell hotdogs and hamburgers and shred documents for donations, and are supported by local businesses that donate food, equipment and staff.
The organization is always exploring new ways to raise cash. In December, volunteers in Nanaimo sold 200 pairs of Crime Stoppers socks, printed with golden handcuffs and the phone number for the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line. The socks sold out in less than two weeks.
Crime Stoppers also looks for a spectrum of ways to get the word out about unsolved crimes and wanted criminals, most often through its partnerships with local media outlets. In 2020, Crime Stoppers will team up with one of the Island’s television news networks.
“We’re going to do ‘wanted’ segments on their news hour,” O’Brien said. “That’s significant. We haven’t done that before … there’s no shortage of wanted people in Nanaimo and this is just another way to get it out to the population.”