An important Cleveland County crime deterrent, dormant since 2017, is set to start back up, according to Cleveland County Crime Stoppers, Inc. Chairman Jeff Yates.
As for what happened to the previous iteration, Yates said, "We haven't found a real reason it faded away, but it absolutely did. Board members terms expired and no activity happened that we found financially either."
Yates continued about the new start-up for the organization, "Retired Shelby (Police) Chief (Jeff) Ledford, and now Interim Chief Brad Fraser, had a desire to see the program revitalized as an important tool in the ever-present need to connect the public with police in solving crime. It is important to note that the Cleveland County Crime Stoppers, Inc., is a Cleveland County organization, not just a Shelby one."
Said Yates, "The call center has always been Shelby Police; however, the program serves all of Cleveland County. Our law enforcement agencies include the Cleveland County Sheriff's office, Shelby Police, Kings Mountain Police and Boiling Springs Police. And fortunately, all our law enforcement agencies are on board. We invite and have officers at our board meetings for input. In addition, our official law enforcement liaison is Detective Brad Benson who, per our by-laws, is a voting member of Crime Stoppers. All input from them is highly valued."
Regarding the call center technology, Det. Brad Benson, who is also the Crime Stoppers, Inc. Law Enforcement Coordinator, noted, "In previous years, prior to the fading of Cleveland County Crime Stoppers in 2017, Shelby PD dispatch were the base center of all tips that were called in through the Crime Stoppers tip line. The tips were written down on a form and provided to the Investigative Lieutenant. The tip was then disseminated to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation."
Benson continued, "Fast forward to 2023; technology has rapidly advanced and during the revamp process Jeff Yates and I realized that the process of obtaining and disseminating tips was very outdated. This sparked us to immediately find and adapt to the new technological ways of handling tips. At the Crime Stoppers Conference back in September 2022 we were presented with a very popular tip management system known as P3 Tips. We have since recently purchased P3 Tips for our program."
Detective Benson said P3 Tips is a mobile app that is available as a free download, either through Apple's App Store or Google Play.
Said Benson, "If the tipster elects to use P3 Tips to provide their tip, they are provided a 'Tipster ID' and 'Password' once they submit the Cleveland County tip form. Once the tipster is logged in there are several cool features that are available to them. The tipster can add attachments (videos, pictures, audio files and document screenshots), and can also engage in a two-way chat dialog with law enforcement. Tipsters can remain at ease and be assured that they are completely anonymous."
If a tip results in a reward payout, Benson, as the Law Enforcement Coordinator, is responsible for providing the tipster information on how to retrieve their reward.
"It is important to note that all reward payouts will be reviewed/ voted on by the board and is based upon the Cleveland County Crimestoppers reward scale," he added.
"On the law enforcement side, we are constantly evaluating our efforts on how to better engage/ serve our community. The addition of P3 Tips is a tool we believe will help
bridge the gap and create dialogue with the community while remaining completely anonymous. The Crime Stoppers tip line is still available for use, but we highly recommend tipsters to use the new P3 Tips system," said Det. Benson.
Yates agreed, adding, "After the successful conclusion to a case, the detective from the investigating agency will come to our board meeting and explain to us how the information that was received played into the conclusion of the case. The board uses a Reward Point Schedule to determine how the information we receive from the detective relates to the amount of money Crime Stoppers owes the tipster. Once the amount is determined, we prepare the reward and notify the detective that the reward money is now available to the tipster to retrieve at our bank through the drive-up window. The detective contacts the tipster through the anonymous phone app (P3) to give them their instructions. The tipster gives the teller their unique tip number, and receives their reward money, all anonymously."
Tips are anonymous through any method used, but the phone app or website for P3tips.com is a real-time conversation occurring between the detective and the tipster without revealing who they are. The ability of the detective to tell the tipster that their money is available has never existed before, they said.
As for their board, Yates noted, "A major part of our efforts as a board is to raise money to be able to pay cash for valuable information for our police. Cleveland County Crime Stoppers Inc., is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, and any donations are tax deductible. Donations can be made directly from our Facebook page, or anyone can contact us to use other methods by emailing to email@example.com. Also, requests for Board Member applications may be sent to the same email address."