Who you gonna text? Crime Stoppers

Stuart Hughes

Brookings is hoping to crack down on community crime by offering citizens an anonymous way to report crime.

Brookings law enforcement is adding a texting option – Crime Stoppers – to its anonymous information hotline, hoping to increase community collaboration with

law enforcement and raise awareness of the reporting service.

Crime Stoppers is a nationwide, non-profit organization that receives tips, calls and now texts from people with information about community crimes. They then pass the information on to authorities anonymously. Brookings started Crime Stoppers in April 2009, which has led to one arrest and conviction to date through residents, media and law enforcement.

That community collaboration with law enforcement is essential for safer community, said Crime Stoppers Community Board Vice President Tim Weelborg.

“We look for people in service clubs and those with the time to volunteer, but it’s not just board members from the community that are active in Crime Stoppers,” Weelborg said. “We have non-voting members at all our meetings, too.” The 15-member board is made up of Brookings residents, chosen by word-of-mouth. Each member serves a three-year term as a volunteer.

Weelborg said the program is still relatively new and needs exposure for it to be successful.

“It’s a matter of getting people to use the program, but I wouldn’t say not having a huge call volume is a bad thing. Brookings is still a pretty safe place to live,” he said.

Detective Cora Olson, campus police’s Crime Stoppers liaison, said the program is not just about enforcement – it’s about prevention.

“We want to protect our campus,” Olson said. “There’s a lot of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to report a crime, and we want them to feel safe reporting information.”

Olson said she is hopeful the condition of anonymity will give underage students a way to report crimes possibly involving alcohol or burglary among students who live on campus. She said these crimes often go unreported, and more people are hurt by the community’s silence.

Crime Stoppers advertises unsolved crimes through “Crime of the Week” run by Brookings newspapers and radio, said Brookings Police Lt. Derrick Powers.

“It’s not every week we have a crime of the week, but when we do, what we find is that not just one person has information on the crimes,” Powers said.

Powers said he hopes Crime Stoppers will lead to a safer community.

“Brookings is fairly safe compared to larger communities, but we still have crime,” he said.

There have been 97 burglaries since 2008, and Powers said he suspected these were committed by a small number of offenders. He said it is usually multiple people that have the information that could help stop these crimes.

Powers said he urges students to report any information they might have, even if they doubt it will aid police, and to remember their anonymity is absolutely guaranteed.