How you can help fight crime

The Crimestoppers West Yorkshire Board
The Crimestoppers West Yorkshire Board
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IT started with one detective in New Mexico - now Crimestoppers is helping solve crime across the country.

In Calderdale alone, more than 40 people have been arrested and prosecuted so far this year as a direct result of information that came from the crime-fighting charity.

Chairman of the Crimestoppers volunteer board for West Yorkshire, Peter Harkness, said the organisation wants to encourage more people to help catch criminals, even if they do not want to reveal their identities.

“Crimestoppers has become a really substantial source of information for the authorities,” he said.

“In 2010 the organisation received more than 7,000 calls from people in West Yorkshire. Those calls led to 734 judicial outcomes.

“It’s the way you can safely fight back.”

The idea of anonymous public crime-fighting came from New Mexico and a detective there who was investigating a murder.

He was sure someone would know something that could help him but no one was coming forward. He bought an answerphone and said people could call and leave messages there anonymously.

The idea came to the UK in 1985 after the murder of PC Keith Blakelock during the riots at the Broadwater Farm estate in London.

The police appealed for information, certain that people knew who had been responsible but were frightened of coming forward. Businessman Michael Ashcroft, who is now Lord Ashcroft and chairman of the trustees of Crimestoppers, offered to provide the police with money for a reward to encourage somebody to come forward with information.

The Community Action Trust was formed in January 1988 and was renamed Crimestoppers in 1995, by then covering all of the UK.

As well as the police, the charity works with organisations such as the UK Border Agency and British Transport Police.

The charity saw calls and submissions from the anonymous forms on its website rocket during this summer’s riots, and believe the information they received was key to the subsequent prosecutions. They received three times the usual amount of calls on one night - August 9 - and calls were up by 250 per cent the following days.

Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police Sir Norman Bettison said Crimestoppers is an invaluable tool to his officers.

“The police are not always on hand to catch criminals red handed and we have always relied upon the public giving us information about who is committing crime,” he said. “There are some members of the public who feel uncomfortable or intimidated in providing that information directly to the police, although the relationship that we have built up through neighbourhood policing teams has increased the trust and familiarity with the police to the extent that people are prepared to share information and intelligence with local officers.

“However, Crimestoppers provides an independent and anonymous telephone service and will sometimes consider giving rewards for information leading to arrests. On this basis Crimestoppers continues to be invaluable in successful crime investigation and bringing criminals to book.”

To contact Crimestoppers call 0800 555111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.