EK CrimeStoppers program in jeopardy

21 years of Crime Stoppers may come to an end if no one steps up

  • Apr. 25, 2013 10:00 a.m.

Sally Macdonald

CAROLYN GRANT

Coun. Kent Goodwin told Council this week that the East Kootenay Crime Stoppers Society is on the edge of folding after 21 years because of an inability to attract new board members.

The Coordinator of the South Okanagan Similkameen Regional Crime Stoppers, Al Sismey, wrote to Council on behalf of the EK Board saying the board members, some of whom have volunteered for more than 10 years, have become tired and frustrated wit their inability to attract new Board Members. They are also frustrated by reduced fundraising opportunities.

Police support from detachments this area has been excellent, the letter says.

Crime Stoppers is operated by a volunteer board of directors, with a coordinator to deal with the tip information that comes in. It is not a police program but a three way partnership between the community, the police and the media. The program receives no government funding.

Sisney visited Cranbrook Council last week to try to find a few new board members.

See CRIME, page 4

Last month, 14 people phoned East Kootenay Crime Stoppers to anonymously report something they had seen that may have been a crime, said.

The information received in those 14 calls led the RCMP to make 11 arrests, recover $22,000 worth of stolen property,  seize $7,500 worth of drugs seized, and take possession of one weapon.

Without Crime Stoppers, those crimes would go unnoticed.

“Eighty to ninety per cent of the information that Crime Stoppers takes anonymously wouldn’t go to the police because those people won’t phone the police. They are concerned about their safety,” said Sismey.

“Crime Stoppers guarantees anonymity – people don’t have to go to court, they never have to disclose their name. It’s important to have that information coming into police.”

“There is no way our police can be the sole bearer of the crime problems in our community. We as citizens need to step up to the plate and do what we can – safely, not putting ourselves at risk. Having more eyes and ears in the community is always a good thing.”

According to the 2011 census, there are 56,000 people living in the East Kootenay.

“And we have 30 policemen,” said Cpl. Pat Prefontaine of Cranbrook RCMP. “We can’t see everything; we can’t even hope to see everything. We rely on the public to give us information on things they see that are going on so we can take action and correct them.”

What’s more, it’s vital to have a way for members of the community to provide tips anonymously.

“People are afraid of retribution. There are a lot of people out there who would like to report things, but for one reason or another they are afraid to. This is a way to allow them to do that,” said Cpl. Prefontaine.

“It’s a one-way flow of information. We don’t have access to the people they are talking to. That’s something that’s important for people to understand.”

Sismey said a volunteer would only need to commit between five and 10 hours a month to the organization.

“It’s not a large time commitment for a volunteer,” he said. “The big issues are coming up with fundraising activities, day to day administration of the program, and recruiting new volunteers.”

Sismey travelled to Cranbrook last week to meet with community leaders about the future of East Kootenay Crime Stoppers. As well as his role on the B.C. Crime Stoppers board, Sismey is the regional coordinator for South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers.

He said one existing board member in the East Kootenay wants to stay on if the program continues. But it requires serious help to go on.

“Our plan of attack is to get an interim board to keep the program going and make sure rewards are paid,” said Sismey.

“Sometimes when people know that if somebody doesn’t step up to the plate, it may be gone, that will make a difference.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with East Kootenay Crime Stoppers can contact coordinator Eric Ausman at 250-417-4234.