Crime Stoppers celebrates 35 years of fighting crime in Toronto, one tip at a time
By Sean Sportun chair of Toronto Crime Stoppers
Crime Stoppers is based on a belief that for every crime committed, someone other than the criminal has information that might solve it.
By Sean Sportun chair of Toronto Crime Stoppers
What started as a simple concept in 1976, now plays a significant role in the way police around the world solve crime today.
Crime Stoppers is the brainchild of Canadian-born Greg MacAleese, who was a detective with the Albuquerque Police Department in New Mexico. After being assigned to investigate a botched gas station robbery that resulted in the senseless shooting of a young part-time employee named Michael Carmen, the case became cold.
After running out of leads in the investigation, MacAleese identified two reasons the public did not come forward with information — a valid fear of reprisal and the lack of public apathy. This crime occurred at dusk, in a well-travelled neighbourhood in Albuquerque, leading MacAleese to believe that someone, other than the killers, must have knowledge concerning this homicide.
He reasoned that if he were to offer a cash reward, to overcome the apathy, while guaranteeing anonymity, to protect against reprisal, he might be able to solve this case. In a bold move, MacAleese set up a secure “tips” telephone line, contacted the local media to help film a televised re-enactment of the crime at the same gas station and offered a cash reward for information that led to an arrest of the persons responsible – the initial reward money was paid out of his own pocket.
After the re-enactment aired on all the television networks, the public were invited to call with information.
Within hours of the broadcast, MacAleese received a tip that led to the arrest of two suspects who were charged with the murder of Carmen; and each were later convicted to life terms with no chance of parole.
The success was based on the unique conduit for citizens to anonymously provide police with information about a crime or potential crime without fear of retribution. The rest, as they say, is history.
In order for Crime Stoppers to be effective, it had to be run by the community in partnership with the police and the media. The program became a not-for-profit, community-based organization that is operated and governed by a group of volunteers from the community who make up the board of directors that are responsible for all decisions related to tipster rewards, program operations, fundraising initiatives and promotional awareness programs.
The volunteer board of directors are concerned citizens and come from varied backgrounds, but all have one common goal – a safer community. They give freely of their time and are committed to stopping, solving and preventing crime in neighbourhoods across our city.
The concept of the community, the media and the police working together to solve crime spread rapidly to point where in 1984, Toronto Crime Stoppers was launched by now retired Toronto Police Staff Supt. Gary Grant.
The Toronto program has now become one of the largest in the world and assists in making criminals accountable for committing crime in the City of Toronto.
The statistics speak volumes. Since inception, Toronto Crime Stoppers have received 156,218 tips resulting in over 11,000 arrests and 37,953 charges laid with over $64,700,000 in property recovered and over $315,000,000 in seized narcotics. The tips called into the program have helped solve murders, sexual assaults, identified fentanyl drug dealers, helped take loaded crime guns off our streets, rescued individuals being human trafficked and so much more.
The program is effective and has been instrumental in helping change the face of criminal activity in Toronto; while working towards building a safer city by partnering with the community, media and the police.
Toronto Crime Stoppers recognizes the critical importance partnerships hold in the prevention of crime and the positive impact such collaborative actions can have on protecting the vital interests of a community.
Their commitment to community safety with a focus on crime prevention is part of the foundation of what they; and as we look back on 2018, a number of partnerships need to be highlighted.
In early 2018, Toronto launched a significant awareness campaign to bring attention to the growing issue of human trafficking, which was developed in partnership with the creative agency at DDB Canada with guidance from the Toronto Police Human Trafficking Enforcement Team – an example of the campaign is seen here today.
The initiative was extremely successful and has been shared across Canada and has received the Special Project Award from the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers and winning Gold at the Advertising & Design Club of Canada.
It was during the development of the human trafficking campaign Toronto contacted Uber to create of partnership that would mobilize their network of drivers to anonymously report suspicious activity.
Aside from having the Crime Stoppers reporting tool built into the Uber app for easy access or pushing messaging to drivers when needed, they also delivered educational training sessions to drivers on what Crime Stoppers is and how to report into Crime Stoppers anonymously.
As a result of these sessions it became clear drivers were observing suspicious activity that needed to be reported to police. Today, this local vision that began in Toronto, has now become a global need to create a synergy of information gathering towards enhancing community safety between Uber and Crime Stoppers around the world.
Unknowingly, Toronto Crime Stoppers became instrumental in launching one of the most significant international corporate partnerships in the history of Crime Stoppers.
Other successful partnerships established in 2018 include, the Canadian Jewelers Association, which is designed to help identify those individuals who commit crimes against their members.
The partnership with Adapt Media has provided an in-kind donation of promoting the Cash For Gun’s Awareness Campaigns through their network of digital media screens across downtown Toronto, allowing Crime Stoppers to remind citizens to report gun crimes anonymously.
A similar partnership with Novus Canada has provided Crime Stoppers exposure for citizens across the GTA to report on the illicit trade of contraband tobacco.
Lastly, looking at new ways to increase their fundraising efforts, they created the Toronto Crime Stoppers 2019 Calendar – A Tribute to Toronto Police Dog Services, which sells for $10 and can be purchased by visiting www.222tips.com.
As Toronto celebrates the success they had in 2018, the program has also been working on building new programs and partnerships for 2019.
One specific partnership is with Global iFind, through its Keep Your Community Safe app (or KYCS for short), which focuses on building safer communities by leveraging Bluetooth technology, allowing citizens to locate stolen high value assets, missing pets or lost people through their network. Their app will now offer citizens the opportunity to report anonymous information directly to Crime Stoppers.
In the coming weeks and months Toronto Crime Stoppers will be announcing additional initiatives and partnerships in their collective effort to mobilize the community to SAY IT HERE at Crime Stoppers for a safer Toronto.
At the January 3, 2019 kickoff of “Crime Stoppers Month,” held inside Toronto Police Headquarters, the program reminded those in attendance that community safety is a shared responsibility and we must all work together to make a difference in the prevention of crime.
On behalf of the Toronto Crime Stoppers board of directors, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to all our police partners, our sponsors, the media and most importantly, to the community who support our programs around the world.
Sean Sportun is the chair of Toronto Crime Stoppers and 2nd vice-president for the International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners (ISCPP) board of directors.