Vancouver: What do you do if you’ve just witnessed a crime, or become aware that criminal activity is going on? If you call the police, you’ll have to identify yourself, and there’s a chance that the offender will find out who you are and now you might be at risk of reprisals.
“If you call Crime Stoppers,” says Linda Annis, the Executive Director of the Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers chapter, “you can tell us what you know, and we will make sure the authorities find out about it. But since we don’t ask who you are, you remain completely anonymous.”
“One of the main reasons why people won’t call authorities is fear of reprisals,” said Annis, “but anonymity for informants is a protection guaranteed by the Supreme Court of Canada that said any information provided to Crime Stoppers will remain anonymous forever.”
“We get approximately 4,500 tips per year,” Annis reported for her territory which covers Powell River to the west, Abbotsford and Mission in the east and the US border.
“Last year there were 157 arrests made and 283 charges laid. Since the inception of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, in 1986, over half a billion dollars of property and drugs have been seized as a result of tips. Over that same period, over 7500 arrests were made.”
Protecting identity of those providing tips is paramount, even to the point of routing all calls through a central call centre in Halton, Ontario. Annis said it is efficient, and adds yet another layer to anonymity for callers since it’s highly unlikely staff would recognize a caller. The other thing that the call centre offers is the ability to take tips in up to 114 languages.
“When we receive a tip,” said Annis, “our job is to make sure that there is nothing in the message that could reveal your identity. We then assign the tip to the RCMP, Canada Border Services, Municipal Police, or a government ministry such as Children and Families or Environment, which ever agency that would be responsible for carrying out the investigation.”
“We also offer other services in the community,” said Annis. “We have developed a program for eighth grade classes, about being socially responsible and when they should report things that aren’t right. It could be about crime, it could be about bullying, but we teach the kids who to tell, along with when, where and why. We are using university students interested in persuing a career in criminology to put on the course, which we expect to expand into the Surrey schools in the fall.”
Annis said that volunteers play a huge role in getting the message out, helping with community outreach. All they ask is that potential volunteers must pass a criminal record check. For more information and to download a volunteer application, people can go to the new Crime Stoppers website, at solvecrime.ca.
Crime Stoppers publicizes wanted criminals and suspects on their website www.solvecrime.ca and now each week, Asian Journal will carry a feature called “Crime of the Week” or “Criminal of the Week” watch for it in the paper and let the police know if you can help by anonymously contacting them through Crime Stoppers.