Crime Stoppers History
1976, Albuquerque, New Mexico… A young man working as a clerk in an all-night convenience store was taken by surprise one evening when two men came into the store with bad intentions. The two men robbed the clerk and before making their getaway, took the attendant's life. After six weeks of investigation, the police had made little headway and turned to the media for assistance. Thanks to the help they received from the local media and the community, within a short period of time, Albuquerque Police gained the information needed to arrest both men for murder.
Soon after the incident, the Albuquerque Police Department started the first program of its kind, giving the community the opportunity to share information and assist the local authorities in solving felony criminal activity, and aptly named it “Crime Stoppers”. Soon after the induction of Crime Stoppers into the Albuquerque Law Enforcement scene, the Phoenix Police Department in Phoenix, Arizona followed suit and created their own community call-in program and named it “Phoenix Silent Witness”. Today there are over 1,100 Crime Stoppers/Silent Witness programs around the globe.
Yavapai Silent Witness History
Only five years after the creation of Crime Stoppers in Albuquerque, NM, came the formation of Yavapai Silent Witness (YSW) by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) in 1981. Although the names are different, the concept is exactly the same—giving the community the opportunity to play a pertinent role in fighting crime and criminal apprehension in Yavapai County.
Although YSW was managed both at the Prescott Police Department and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office throughout the first 27 years of its existence, February of 2008, under the authority of Yavapai County Sheriff, Steve Waugh (retired), the program made its permanent home at the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in order to better serve the residents of the community. On a 24-hour daily basis, employees of YCSO answer the toll free (1-800) phone line and a fulltime YCSO employee acts as the Program Director. The program relies on calls from the public with information regarding criminal activity. Along with the calls from community members, the media assists by advertising unsolved crimes and wanted felons, and law enforcement agencies within Yavapai County investigate the calls received. Yavapai Silent Witness attributes its success to these three entities.
Catch 22: One such media tool is the “Catch 22” program adopted by Yavapai Silent Witness in June of 1997. “Catch 22” introduces fugitives to the public in order to create awareness and promote citizens to be on the look-out. The 22 felons spotlighted during the process are provided by law enforcement agencies throughout Yavapai County. After the Warrant Division of YCSO confirms the warrants and extradition through the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, the process begins. The introduction of the fugitives takes place by means of local radio stations, newspapers, and television channels, which each advertise the same wanted felon every day for 22 consecutive days. The fugitives spotlighted in “Catch 22” may be seen more than one time depending on the severity of their crime. The highest profile felons will be seen phase after phase until apprehended. Information leading to an arrest on any of the 22 advertised felons is worth a $500.00 cash reward through the Yavapai Silent Witness program. In order to provide information to YSW, community members must call 1.800.932.3232, where they will always remain anonymous.
The “Catch 22” program has been such a success that the YSW Board of Directors has decided to provide the community with two phases of “Catch 22” each year, the first phase starting in May and the second in December. Information about each of the fugitives included in “Catch 22” can be found on CableOne Advertising, the Prescott Daily Courier, and multiple radio stations including KKLD, KYCA, KVRD, KZAM, and KPPV.
To date, there have been 82 felony arrests due to the “Catch 22” program and Yavapai Silent Witness has paid $41,000.00 to callers with information leading to those arrests.