Witnesses to crimes, or citizens with information on the whereabouts of wanted fugitives, are encouraged to participate in the San Antonio Police Department’s Crime Stoppers program.
The program, which began in 1982, has put thousands of criminals behind bars, and paid out more than $500,000 in reward money.
“We make a lot of arrests based on calls and tips to Crime Stoppers,” said Lt. Frank Martinez, with the San Antonio Police Department. “The added plus is that not only are they anonymous, but at the end of the day, there's a payoff for them.”
Reward money is only offered in felony cases, with a maximum payout of $5,000. Martinez said, the amount of money a tipster ultimately gets is dependent on the tip and the type of crime being reported. But despite the cash incentive in many of the cases, Martinez said not everyone is so eager to call.
“The general population, generally, are very fearful of calling in tips for fear of retaliation, or just apathy,” Martinez said.
For that reason, there is no name, address or caller ID involved when tipsters call in, truly allowing them to remain anonymous, if they chose.
“However, we will ask as many questions as we can because we do realize that this is the last time we may be able to talk to you; you may not want to talk to us again,” said Sgt. Javier Salazar, spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department.
Salazar said tips are a crucial element to the work that the police department does, and therefore, all tips, both big and small, are welcome.
“There's no such thing as a tip that's too small,” Salazar said. “We can take it, and what that person may not know is that 99 people have already called in with similar tips, and this is the last missing puzzle piece we need to complete the information.”
With the Crime Stoppers program receiving anywhere from 30 to 100 caller tips per week, the most descriptive tips prove to be the most useful. However, both Salazar and Martinez said even the small tips can break a case wide open.
“What may seem like a very small tip, or just tidbit of information, could be that information that we need to make an arrest, or at least make the next step in making an arrest,” Martinez said.
Reward money from the program comes from the local courts, as well as private donations.
To provide a tip, call 210-224-STOP. You can also submit tips by texting them to the word “CRIMES”, or by submitting tips on the Crime Stoppers website.