Just last year, Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers gave $200,000 last year to people who gave tips, but there is still more to give out.
Crime Stoppers receives close to 1,500 tips per month. While the tips have increased over the past few years, there are still people who are scared to come forward. And that fear continues to make law enforcement’s job more difficult.
“Maybe they don’t want to be seen as the one talking to law enforcement, as the ‘snitch,’ or they just don’t want to get involved—they don’t want to go to court, they don’t want their name in a report, they don’t want to have anything to do with it,” said Trish Routte with SWFL Crime Stoppers. “But these people have critical information that can make all the difference in law enforcement being able to make arrests.”
Crime Stoppers continues to emphasize that its tipsters always remain anonymous.
Routte says there are several layers of protection for people who call the hotline. The call center is even based in Canada.
“The worst thing to ever happen to us is for a tipster to be identified, so we go to great lengths to make sure that every single tipster is protected,” Routte said.
But fear of being exposed has kept hundreds of cases from being solved.
“There is absolutely no crime, no crime that you can tell me that no one knows what happened and no one knows who did it,” Routte said.
The ZombiCon shooting was a big case that a tipster helped crack, but law enforcement was slow to release that information.
“We have been working with one particular tipster for a very long time, along with the FBI, along with Fort Myers police,” Routte said. “But we never made it public knowledge because, at the time, we wanted to make sure we were going to great lengths to protect the tipster.”
In the 41 years the program has been operating, never once has a tipster been known, and Routte promises it will stay that way.
“And that gives people a little bit of comfort, because they know that they can do the right thing: They can share the information that they have, they can see the bad guy go to jail and they get money for it.”
There is a hefty reward for most tipsters, most of the time averaging on a $3,000 reward. Routte says the program’s funding comes from a grant.
She says there has been a big boost in tips recently because of the Crime Stoppers app. Many people don’t like to vocalize what they know, finding it easier to do so online or over the phone. If anyone has any information about a case, the number for SWFL Crime Stoppers is 1-800-780-8477.