CUYAHOGA FALLS: With a population of about 50,000 people, Mayor Don Walters said the city has 100,000 eyes available to spot crime on any given day.
Now the city hopes those eyes will do more than just watch.
A new program will pay cash to anonymous tipsters who give the police information on everyday crimes from break-ins to hit-skip accidents to drug deals.
“Sometimes people have information and they’re not sure they really want to be involved or give their name,” Walters said. “This gives them the opportunity to tell us what’s going on.”
The city’s Crime Fighters is different than the county-operated Crime Stoppers program in that the tipster never has to give identifying information, and small cases are as welcomed as the big ones.
Tuesday afternoon, Walters was joined by Police Chief Jack Davis, City Council members and other city employees as the first Crime Fighters sign was installed at the State Road entrance to the city, inviting tipsters to call 330-971-TIPS.
The program is being launched with nearly $1,500 that has been donated by city employees and City Council members.
Employees raised nearly $1,000 by paying $5 on “Jeans Friday,” in which they receive a lapel sticker and the right to dress casually for the day. Council President Mary Ellen Pyke said council was chipping in another $500.
Walters said he hopes other individuals and local businesses will contribute to keep the program going.
Chief Davis will decide what tips to pay and how much they are worth, but Walters said he is confident that the program will do as much to deter crime as to catch criminals.
“If you’re a criminal and you know anyone can get money for reporting you and they get to remain anonymous, are you going to do business in Cuyahoga Falls?” Walters said. “If I were a criminal, this would not be my town.”
Here’s how the program works:
The tipster can dial 330-971-TIPS to report any crime. An officer will answer the line — a cellphone without caller ID that will be answered around the clock — and will take the information and assign the tipster a number (i.e. No. 20.)
The tipster will then be instructed to dial another phone number with a voicemail and simply state their assigned number and a password (i.e., “This is No. 20. My password is dog.”)
The tipster can call the line back periodically to see which tip numbers are being paid. If his number is given (i.e., “$50 is being paid to No. 20,” he will be instructed to go to a specific bank and use his password to receive a cash reward from the teller. The teller will call the city to confirm that the password matches the tipster’s number. No other ID is exchanged.
No city tax money will be used for the program, Walters said, and the donations are being held in a nonprofit account by the local Fraternal Order of Police.
Chief Davis said he’s confident that a little money will loosen lips.
“You’re going to get the good citizens who report because they want to help anyways. What this does is reach another segment that needs a little of an incentive to turn someone in.”
He also suspects some tipsters will come from the criminal community.
“There’s no honor among thieves,” he said. “This is a way they could anonymously turn in a buddy and profit from it.”