The nationally recognized Crime Stoppers program is expanding to Merced County.
Crime Stoppers is a confidential system that pays rewards to people who provide information that leads to the arrest of wanted criminals. Suspect and case information is profiled on a regular basis in local media.
In Stanislaus County, Crime Stoppers has been in operation for five years and as to date, has tallied up 281 captures.
Patrick Lunney, chief investigator for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, has spearheaded the formation of the Merced County Crime Stoppers. Lunney explained that the confidentiality built into the program is a key to its success.
The fear of retaliation or reprisal by the criminal is eliminated because the reporting person is completely anonymous throughout the entire process, Lunney said.
No one in law enforcement ever knows the identity of the person providing the information, and the person is never contacted to be a witness or provide testimony. Information can be provided by phone call, e-mail or text to a neutral point of contact. The caller is provided with a secret code number and if the information leads to an arrest, the person holding the secret code number will be eligible for a monetary reward, to be given at a neutral site, Lunney said.
The idea for Merced Area Crime Stoppers came after Merced County District Attorney Larry D. Morse II attended a Crime Stoppers fundraiser in 2009 for Stanislaus County and decided Merced should have its own.
The program is a community based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which means the board of directors is comprised entirely of volunteer citizens from across Merced County. The board of directors oversees the entire operation of the program. All police chiefs in Merced County and the district attorney are members of the advisory committee, but take no active role in managing the program.
Reward money is generated through fundraising activities and solicitations from individuals, companies and organizations.
The first Crime Stoppers program was launched in 1976 in Albuquerque, N.M. after a young detective, frustrated with a stalled homicide case, staged a reenactment of the crime, which ran on local television stations and resulted in the arrest of the perpetrator.
The Merced County Crime Stoppers is expected to start Oct. 3.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.