Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tip of the hat to tipsters


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ALMOST every day someone in Barbados calls in a serious tip to Crime Stoppers and based on statistics, the information is turning out to be extremely handy in helping police solve new crimes and cold cases over the past two-and-a-half years.
Crime Stoppers Barbados has received 776 tips since its February 2009 launch that have led to police closing 94 cases and charging 93 people.
And director Devrol Dupigny says that over the years, tipsters have become even better at providing clear, useful information.
“I would say the quality of tips has increased, meaning that the level of detail is better.
“In the past you may have had people calling with information that police could probably not use because there were important details missing.
“More detailed information is now being given by the tipster, making it easier for investigators to conduct their investigations,” he told the SUNDAY SUN.
“And the board of Crime Stoppers Barbados believes that information that has been received by the programme has really assisted the Royal Barbados Police Force in the execution of its duties and responsibilities as they relate to crime.”
Information provided by Crime Stoppers has led to arrests in crimes involving more than BDS$2.25 million in illegal drugs, more than a quarter-million dollars’ worth of stolen property, robbery, theft, burglary, fraud, money laundering, guns, assault, and even road traffic offences.
At least two wanted men have also been nabbed as a result of the anonymous tips that come through either the Crime Stoppers toll-free 1-800-8477 hotline or its confidential website
Dupigny says interest in helping in the crime fight appears to be growing among residents, some of whom he said have shown no interest in receiving the reward they’re entitled to when they provide useful information.
While Crime Stoppers has approved several rewards for useful tips since 2009 – ranging from $100 to $1 000, depending on the nature of the crime committed – a quarter of the total $20 000 has never been claimed.
“Some people just really want to exercise their civic responsibility so they call in information to help and that’s all they are interested in,” Dupigny explained as one of the reasons for $5 000 going unclaimed.
As for the other reason – a lingering fear of being identified – he says there’s really no basis for that discomfort.
He explained that each step, from reporting crime to claiming a reward, is part of a fully confidential process.
“This system has been in place for nearly 30 years across the world and it has never been compromised. As far as Crime Stoppers worldwide knows, no Crime Stopper tipster has ever been compromised,” he said.
Dupigny took the SUNDAY SUN through the entire process.
A call coming in on the hotline is routed to the call centre in Toronto, Canada, which handles 200 Crime Stoppers programmes worldwide.
“All that shows up on the operator’s phone is a 246 area code, which shows that the call originated in Barbados.
“There is no caller ID on that system and the operator doesn’t ask any details about the identity of the caller or the caller’s location, just the information.
“The information is input into online software called TipSoft and the caller is given a confidential number, which helps them claim any reward,” he said.
As for people submitting information online, they complete the necessary forms which go through a series of secure servers housed in the Crime Stoppers centre in Texas. An individual then receives notification and the system generates a confidential number for him/her.
“The tipster is told to call back in 30 days to give time for information to be passed on to Royal Barbados Police Force for action and when they call back, they identify themselves only by the number given,” Dupigny said, adding that the number is used to claim the reward directly from the manager of a Scotiabank branch of the tipster’s choosing. No name, identification or signature is required.
But where exactly does the money the crime-fighting charity pay out come from?
Dupigny explained that corporate Barbados and other individuals have been supporting the organization, although it has been difficult recently.
“It’s been challenging in these economic times. When we started in 2009, it was challenging then and it continues to be challenging now,” he said, singling out Sandy Lane Charitable Trust for its support, particularly in funding the Crime Stoppers youth programme.
“However, in the past couple of weeks we have seen somewhat of an increased interest by corporate Barbados in terms of supporting the organization.
“That is possibly because of some of the media reports on the criminal activity that has occurred recently.”
In addition to its traditional hotline, Crime Stoppers also runs a programme addressing students and other youth, and is also preparing to launch an Integrity Line to give employees the opportunity to anonymously report unethical and unlawful activity in their workplaces.
The organization is also working on a synthetic DNA marker project that would allow people to mark their property for future identification in the event of theft.
Dupigny said more details would be made public and the product would go on sale soon.

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