Crime Stoppers of North East Florida tries to create safer communities

By Lawrence Griffin |

Over $240,000 worth of drugs have been retrieved after the Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida succeeded in performing two busts and several smaller ones.

Each bust was obtained through tips — information of people growing marijuana in their homes that the police would not have known if they had not been given the information.

Since 1996 the Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida have worked with the media and local law enforcement to catch criminals. The idea is a person can call in anonymously and have his or her identity protected from danger. They offer rewards if they apprehend a criminal based on a tipster’s call-in, giving up to $1,000.

Crime Stoppers was founded in Daytona Beach in 1996 after the murder of one of their members. They wanted to prevent future incidents and hopefully solve their own. In 2004, they merged with Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and all of Volusia County to become the Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida.

The Crime Stoppers exist through a collaboration with the media-newspapers, televised news, the internet and the local law enforcement of each individual town where they are based.

In St. Augustine, Sheriff David Shoar has been a “huge help” according to Johnson, always supporting them and advertising for them.

“We wouldn’t be able to exist without the relationship we have with the police department and the sheriff’s office,” said Executive Director Shira Johnson.

“All of our calls go through a call center in Canada and then they get transmitted to the local sheriff’s office in the region and then distributed to the police department if it falls under the police department’s jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “The tipster remains anonymous.”

Crime Stoppers secretary Ann Breidenstein said she is always concerned about violence in schools, worrying about children that bring drugs or weapons to school with them.

“Any time we can prevent a potential tragic violent situation in our schools, I’m willing to put in all my time to it,” she said.

The Crime Stoppers host a yearly poster contest among schools to educate the students of how to stop crimes and the winning posters are posted up in every classroom at every participating school.

“I have such respect for law enforcement and what they do to protect our communities, but they need the help of the community, so what I love about CS is that we provide an avenue for them to get the community involved,” Breidenstein said. “And we make people feel comfortable about sharing info that they might not feel comfortable divulging if their identity was revealed with it.”

Crime Stoppers obtains most of its funding from community fundraisers and the Crime Stoppers Trust Fund, where the money comes from fines paid by convicted criminals. When one is convicted of a crime in court, he or she has to pay a fine which goes toward Crime Stoppers.

“It’s a really good thing; it’s safe to participate in and people feel good by participating in Crimestoppers,” Breidenstein said. “Crime Stoppers provides a way for average citizens to help solve crime and make their communities safer.”

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