By Debbie Robinson
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Community members with information about felony crimes beginning today may anonymously call the Heartland Crime Stoppers tip hot line and may be eligible for a reward.
Kyle Hickam, of Webb City, president of the 13-member board of directors, Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston and law enforcement agencies announced Friday the formation of a local chapter of the international nonprofit organization that will serve 20 counties in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
“We’ve used Kansas City and Springfield in developing our program,” Hickam said.
Residents of the community can call 417-782-TIPZ (8479) to report information of a felony crime, he said.
The organization also has a Web site for reporting crimes at www.heartlandtipz.com.
The caller will be given a code number, and the tip will be directed to the appropriate law enforcement agency, Hickam said.
The telephone system doesn’t have caller ID, and no one will ask the callers for their identity, he said.
“We don’t want to know who they are,” he said. “Callers may call back from time to time using their code to see if an arrest has been made,” he said.
Rewards will be given up to $1,000 for a successful arrest, he said.
“It’s giving citizens the ability to get involved anonymously and help getting crime off the streets,” Hickam said.
The board will meet monthly to review tips and determine if a reward is warranted, he said.
The organization stresses the anonymity of the procedure.
“You’ve got a certain segment of the people who fear for their children if they call in,” he said. “This will, hopefully, take that fear away.”
Donations will be sought to pay reward money, Hickam said, and rewards would be delivered only based on the code assigned to the tipster.
Woolston said the city began investigating the feasibility of the program about two years ago.
In its pursuit, the city received a $15,000 federal Justice Assistance Grant for software to begin the program, he said.
“Without the city’s assistance, it would be impossible to be at the stage we are today,” Hickam said.
Woolston said the program will send a message to criminals that they will be watched in Joplin and the surrounding area.
“The ultimate goal is to reduce crime and to enhance the quality of life for the Four-State Area,” Woolston said.
Hickam said the organization was created to combat three concerns — fear of reprisal, an attitude of apathy, and reluctance to get involved.
The program was launched in 1976 in Albuquerque, N.M., and has spread worldwide.
Tips made to the tip line have resulted in a 95 percent average conviction rate, Hickam said.
As of April 26, 523,887 arrests have been made based on tips, with more than $78 million in rewards worldwide, he said.
“We hope to continue to add to those numbers in the Four-State area,” Hickam said.
Donations can be made to the organization at P.O. Box 715, Joplin, MO 64802.