By Carlyn Johnson and Lauren French
There’s hardly a crime that happens without someone knowing about it.
That’s what Lieutenant David Livingston of the Altoona Police Department had to say about the motive behind Eau Claire County Crime Stoppers, an anonymous tip hotline established this month.
“When [police] are at a dead-end investigation,” Livingston said, “you don’t know where else to turn or who to talk to, the training is going to be to throw in the Crime Stopper card.”
Tipsters can use the anonymous hotline (715-874-TIPS), the mobile app (P3 TIPS) or the nonprofit’s website to report information on a crime in the county. A call center in Texas receives the tip, cleanses it of all information that might give away the caller’s identity and then transfers the clue to law enforcement in Eau Claire County.
Livingston, or one of three other coordinators, assign someone to follow up on the tip, Livingston said. He said if the tip leads to an arrest, the tip-giver can earn a cash reward. Rewards – funded through community fundraisers and donations – vary depending on the severity of the crime solved, Livingston said.
Livingston said Crime Stoppers is ideal for those who want to report a crime but don’t want the subpoena that might come along with identifying themselves to law enforcement.
“As long as we get that information from Crime Stoppers and we solve that crime, it’s a win-win because they don’t have to testify, “Livingston said. “We don’t know who they are.”
Eau Claire County isn’t the first to implement this tactic – Crime Stoppers as a whole has local chapters across the nation. According to the Crime Stoppers USA database, over 12,000 arrests have been made in connection to Crime Stoppers tips in Wisconsin alone.
Since its launch in Eau Claire County, the nonprofit has received one call containing three separate tips, Livingston said. He said the tips are currently under investigation, so police haven’t made any arrests yet.
With Crime Stoppers being a new service offered to the community, the number of reported crime has been low, but residents can see the hotline being beneficial.
Alana Sundby lives close to the 700 block and Menomonie St. where a drive-by shooting occurred last month. While Sundby said she didn’t see or hear any of the shots, she thinks the idea of an anonymous hotline is a useful idea.
“If you know something that is going on and you don’t feel comfortable saying more information,” Sundby said, “… [an anonymous hotline] should be available to you as a resource for your safety and other people’s safety.”