CrimeStoppers: How does it work, where do tips go?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Every day you watch WREG, you'll hear us say to call CrimeStoppers if you have any information that can help lead to an arrest.

But what actually happens when you call 901-528-CASH?

Buddy Chapman started the Memphis CrimeStoppers program in the early 80s.

Since then, it’s led to the arrests of thousands of criminals.

“It’s an invaluable resource for this community," said Chapman.

He explained to us how the resource works.

It starts with everyday citizens who have useful information about an unsolved crime texting or calling 901-528-CASH.

When you call, an operator will ask what crime you’re calling about and then check the system to make sure it exists.

They’ll then add your tip directly into the police system, so it goes straight to the right bureau or detective.

There’s no caller ID or tracking, so a tipster’s given an ID number and is told to call back weekly to check if their tip qualified for a reward.

“We can’t call them back because we don’t know who they are. We don’t have a caller ID, and the reason for those things is we don’t want to know who they are.”

CrimeStoppers will make sure police received the new information and officers will investigate it.

If an arrest is made, they’ll find out how much of a role the tip played in making it happen.

“Nothing is too small because very, very often it’ll be that one tiny little [piece of] information is what breaks the case open for the police.”

An awards committee meets once a month and goes over the tips that helped lead to arrests.

There are 18 board members with usually a dozen of them at the meetings.

The committee looks at aspects like severity of the crime, weapons used, criminal history and age of the victim.

The rewards range from $150 to $1,000.

They have a matrix they use to narrow in on dollar ranges and then talk about the crimes to decide on a reward amount.

Members of the District Attorney’s Office are also there to add any needed perspective.

“It’s a back and forth discussion," said Chapman. "[It] usually takes about two hours to go over all the cases we have on any given one awards committee meeting.”

Once those tipsters call in to see if their tip was helpful, they’re given a time and place to pick up the money.

They don’t know the cash amount until they get there.

“I’m the one that’s there," said Chapman. "I ask what’s your tip number, you give it to me, I ask what did you call us about - if you’re able to tell me what you called about then I hand you an envelope of money anywhere from $150 to $1,000.”

Your name and information is never asked for, as they truly don’t want to know it.

Chapman says the tipsters are across the board. They have a good amount of repeat callers, criminals turning in criminals and people who simply want to make their neighborhood safer.

In reality, he says a small amount of people contribute to a large percentage of Memphis’ crime.

“In this city we have people who burglarize and steal things who have been convicted 25 to 30 times, and I don’t mean that as how many times they’ve done it or been arrested – that’s how many times they’ve been convicted.”

They usually get 35 to 50 tips a month and give out around $7,000.

Sometimes others will add to the CrimeStoppers reward for a case, like we’ve seen in the shooting death of 2-year-old Laylah Washington. Hers is up to more than $20,000.

People have a year to pick up their reward, but not everyone does.

Chapman thinks some people are scared to but also believes there are other reasons.

“I think we have a lot of people, particularly in the African American community, who are sick of crime and they’re not doing it to get their reward. They’re doing it to get the thugs and hoodlums off the streets.”

Chapman says a society only has crime to the extent they’re willing to tolerate it.

“We simply must quit making excuses for criminals because there’s got to be some things you can’t do no matter why you do them.”

You can also submit tips online at CrimeStopMem.org.

Those tips go through a separate entity in Canada where your information is stripped from the tip and sent to CrimeStoppers.

They could go back and contact you via email if they need clarification on a tip if you don’t opt out of it, which they can’t do with phone tips.