GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WBTW) — With an increased distrust of law enforcement, it is more important than ever to have someone passing information from witnesses to police, according to Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry.
“I don’t think people feel comfortable going to the police and saying, ‘I know this person did this,’ especially if the agencies are out in neighborhoods after there was just a murder,” said Kate Brogran, who coordinates the organization. “Let’s say they are not going to feel comfortable going up to officers because they don’t know who is watching and giving information this way, so this is a good in-between.”
Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry, a non-profit formed in 1982, covers 11 counties in South Carolina, including Horry and Georgetown counties.
The organization offers up to $1,000 for tips that ends in an arrest. A murder may lead to a $1,000 tip, while less-violent crimes would receive less.
The Lowcountry organization has received 740 tips so far this year. Last year, it received 1,800 tips, leading to $7,300 in rewards for between 20 to 30 tips.
Brogan said how many tips lend in arrests varies by month, and can depend on how difficult the law enforcement agency is to get in touch with for updates. She said there are benefits to the agencies having a point person for handling the tips.
“We want to help them as much as we can to help the community, and helping there to be justice,” she said. “It is just all-around beneficial to have that relationship.”
Tips can be submitted on the “P3 Tips” app, online at 5441111.com or by calling (843) 544-1111. Images and videos can be uploaded on the app, and tipsters can check the status of their tip and have a two-way dialogue with the call takers.
Brogan said Crime Stoppers doesn’t have caller ID, doesn’t record phone calls, doesn’t save computer IP addresses, doesn’t track locations and won’t ask tipsters for their name. If a tip includes a name, she deletes it before passing it on to police.
“It’s all anonymous,” Brogan said. “So you don’t leave your name, you don’t leave your number.”
Tipsters give a description of what happened, the address of where it occurred, and information on the type of crime it was. Crime Stoppers then uses that information to pass the tip along to the right law enforcement agency.
Users get a tip ID number, which is crucial to following up on their tip and collecting the reward if they receive one.
The organization keeps the rewards anonymous through a partnership with a bank. If a tipster gets a reward, it writes a check, which is taken to that bank. The bank’s tellers know that if someone comes in and gives the correct tip ID number, to not ask for identification and to give the tipster the check.
Brogan said the rewards are a motivator to solicit tips. Other tipsters, she said, want to get drug dealers out of their neighborhoods. She said the reasons for giving tips are personal for each person.
The tip line is open from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thursdays for people to call in and get an update on the status of their tips. Brogan is able to tell callers if the case has been investigated, cleared or if an arrest has been made.
More than 2,975 arrests have been made due to the tips, and 10,429 cases cleared. More than $446,000 in reward money has been paid out, and more than $2.4 in property has been recovered. More than $2.75 in drugs have been seized due to tips.
Tips didn’t lead to any arrests last month, but Brogan said sometimes, there can be four arrests in one. She said it depends on the police agency and how difficult they are to get in touch with for updates.
“We all need to work together to make this a success and keep our community safe,” she said.
A spokesperson with the Horry County Police Department did not respond to requests for an interview about the agency’s partnership with Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry.
To get involved with volunteering or donations, email firstname.lastname@example.org