Public needs better information on crime tip line, public safety group told
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
1/15/13 at 2:52 PM
Widespread misconceptions about the city’s anonymous crime-reporting tip line are discouraging residents from using the service, Crime Prevention Network Director Carol Bush told a City Council working group Tuesday.
More outreach and education are needed to dispel fears that the tip line is not secure or truly anonymous, she said.
The comments came in the first meeting of the Public Safety Intelligence Working Group, which was created by City Councilor G.T. Bynum in response to a Jan. 7 quadruple homicide at the Fairmont Terrace Apartments near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.
The group, which will meet three more times in the next three weeks, seeks to develop “specific objectives” for improving communication between residents and police, Bynum said.
“This is about the whole city,” he said. “It’s not just about 61st and Peoria.”
Bush said the misconceptions about the Crime Stoppers tip line were apparent in a neighborhood meeting she attended Monday night with police and residents of apartment complexes near 61st and Peoria, including Fairmont Terrace.
The residents complained that the line is insecure and offers no anonymous, effective way of reporting crimes, she said.
“That was an angry mob of 13 people,” she said. “I said ‘hello,’ and they attacked.”
She said the crowd relaxed once she explained that the tip line is manned by call takers who relay tips to police without the callers’ names, and that callers are issued an identification number that can be used to collect any cash reward anonymously.
Many people mistakenly believe that those answering the phone are police officers, Bush said.
“You have to explain the process step by step,” Bush said. “By the end of the night .... they said, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ ”
Although the Crime Prevention Network has had success working with news media to educate the public about the tip line, Bush said authorities must also begin a marketing campaign targeting “places that (people) go.”
Advertisements next to gas station pumps, in grocery store checkout lines and health clinic waiting rooms are possibilities, she said. She also suggested mailing Crime Stoppers brochures with utility bills.
“We need to think out of the box and go to nontraditional forms of advertising,” she said.
The Crime Prevention Network, however, operates on a budget of about $58,000 a year — not including salaries — and has no money budgeted for marketing, Bush said.
A massive marketing campaign could grow the budget to around $250,000, she said.
The network, which changed its name from the Tulsa Crime Commission this month, is a nonprofit organization funded by donations, city contracts and grants. It oversees Crime Stoppers and the Alert Neighbors program.
The public safety working group includes representatives of the Tulsa Police Department, the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and news media.
Its next meeting will explore ways to protect witnesses testifying in court after anonymous tips are made to Crime Stoppers or police, Bynum said.
First Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told the group that such tips do not help prosecutors if there is no one to testify in court against a defendant. Some kind of protection system is needed, he said.
“It’s information, but if I can’t put it under oath to testify, it’s useless information,” he said.
In this March 2010 file photo, Crime Commission Executive Director Carol Bush speaks at a neighborhood association meeting. JARREL WADE/Tulsa World File