BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — There are nearly 400 unsolved felony crimes under investigation in metro Alabama.
Crime Stoppers says oftentimes the key to solving those crimes is in the community’s hands.
“Law enforcement is only as good as the community that supports it,” says Matt Davis, a retired deputy from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“The law enforcement agencies that are out there trying to locate these people and identify suspects in their cases rely on this [public] information,” said Sgt. John Pennington.
Sgt. Pennington and Davis say when investigators are gathering information on a case, they run into community members and witnesses who are unwilling to speak up.
Davis explains that can be for two reasons: fear of retribution or complacency.
This is where the non-profit organization comes in.
It starts with investigators and detectives from local law enforcement agencies sending information on an open felony case where they need help identifying or locating a suspect.
Crime Stoppers then sends that information out to the community and creates a path for anonymous communication.
Anyone with information on a crime is able to call, email a tip through the website, or send a tip through the ‘P3 Tip’ smartphone app. The Crime Stoppers system in place ensures a tipster’s identity is not revealed.
This way, witnesses and community members are able to share whatever it is they know without the fear of retribution.
And when it comes to catching criminals, no piece of information is too small.
In one case, Sgt. Pennington recalls a suspect wearing a disguise, but he was carrying a distinct bag. A tipster called in because they recognized the bag and the person who carried it. That tip led to an arrest.
Sgt. Pennington receives the tips 24/7.
When a tip comes in, he forwards it to the detective working the case.
“We are not an investigative agency,” said Sgt. Pennington.
It’s up to investigators to verify a tip– and many times, the tips help solve the crime.
Any information that helps close a case is rewarded with cold, hard cash.
In keeping the process anonymous, a tipster receives a code. They take the code to a local bank and collect their money.
Crime Stoppers is fully made up of volunteers. Many of the volunteers are retired law enforcement or still serving their communities.
Davis and Sgt. Pennington say they give their time because they believe in the Crime Stoppers mission to build a positive relationship between the community and law enforcement.
That positive relationship is what creates safer communities, and it’s your help that puts Alabama’s most wanted criminals behind bars.