Tulsa's Crimestoppers tip line has solved more than 4,000 felony crimes in the past 20 years.
Crimestoppers is run by a non-profit group called the Citizens Crime Commission. Tulsa Police officers used to take turns answering the Crimestoppers tip line. But these days all those calls are handled by an answering service in Canada.
News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains how it works. The Crimestoppers tip line allows citizens to call in with information about crimes and not worry about anyone finding out whom they are, even police.
One problem was getting someone to man the phone line 24 hours a day. Another problem was having only one line. If a number of tips came in at once, many calls were missed and with no caller ID, there was no way to call them back.
Tulsa Police officer Scott Walton: "They've definitely done their homework, they're well-schooled in what they're doing and I think this program will work much better." Now, a company called Alternative Answers is handling Tulsa's Crimestoppers calls. It serves Crimestoppers programs all over the country and has operators working 24 hours a day who must sign an oath of secrecy and pass a background check.
The operators fax the Crimestoppers tips to the Tulsa Police Department each morning. If there's a hot tip that needs to be handled right then, they call Tulsa's 911 dispatchers. The dispatchers can then contact the detective working that case. The tip sheets contain whatever information the caller provides and the operators speak English, Spanish and Italian.
Nothing on the tip sheet identifies the caller in any way. "This is not a situation that's traced back to them and we want them to know we need this information."
One downside is if officers have additional questions, there's no way to get in touch with the caller. Another is operators in Canada might not always have a handle on addresses in Tulsa, but overall, police hope the new answering service will boost the Crimestoppers program to a whole new level.
Here's how you are paid for your Crimestoppers tip. You are given a secret code number when you call. If the information helps police make a felony arrest, they notify the Crime Commission. They decide each month how much to pay, and then tell you at which bank to pick up your money. You use the code number at the bank, so your identity remains hidden.