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TMCNet:  Crime prevention expert tells working group of need for local crime-tips call center

[January 23, 2013]

Crime prevention expert tells working group of need for local crime-tips call center

Jan 23, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Creating a local Crime Stoppers call center would cost approximately $285,000, the City Council's Public Safety Intelligence Working Group was told Tuesday.

"Those are raw numbers," Carol Bush, executive director of the Crime Prevention Network, told the group.

But having a local resident answer calls has been shown to increase arrests, and that makes sense because local residents know the area better, she said.

"It localizes it, which makes it much more effective," Bush said.

Crime Stoppers is one of five crime-prevention programs operated by the nonprofit Crime Prevention Network. The network, formerly known as the Crime Commission, receives no funding from the city.

The Crime Prevention Network pays an out-of-state firm $25,000 a year to take anonymous tips from Tulsans, Bush said. In the Crime Stoppers' program's earlier years, police officers answered the calls.

Additional funds would help cover the cost of three full-time employees, office space, phone service, computer software and reward funds. The Crime Prevention Network would continue to operate the Crime Stoppers program.

Bush said she is not recommending that the city foot the bill alone but that a contract with the city to provide some funding could be used to leverage private donations.

Bush's cost estimate does not include employee benefits. At present, Tulsa Police Officer Jillian Roberson coordinates the Crime Stoppers program -- a job she does in addition to her duties as a public information officer for the Police Department.

The Public Safety Intelligence Working Group is exploring ways the city can improve communication between residents and the police when it comes to gathering anonymous tips.

City Councilor G.T. Bynum, who is leading the group, said after the meeting that the city has to look seriously at working with philanthropists to fund the programs recommended by the group.

"The city ought to be treating this as a public safety tool, no different than our 911 system or our helicopters or anything else," he said of the anonymous tip programs. "It is a force multiplier." Bush said it would be ideal to have Tulsa police officers available to educate residents about the city's anonymous tip line but that police don't have the staffing for that task.

Her other recommendations for getting the word out to residents include placing tip line information on interior bus signs, gas station kiosks and billboards.

But among the most effective -- and cheapest -- tools are restroom billboards, Bush said.

"Everyone has to go to the bathroom eventually," she said.

The Public Safety Intelligence Working Group was created in response to the Jan. 7 quadruple homicide at the Fairmont Terrace Apartments near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue. It includes representatives of the Tulsa Police Department, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the media.

Next week, the working group is expected to discuss localizing the city's witness protection program, updating the Police Department's records-management procedures and modifying 911 protocols to ensure anonymity.

Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313 kevin.canfield@tulsaworld.com ___ (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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