How Crime Stoppers really keeps tipsters anonymous

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LEE COUNTY, Fla.- After Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers put up new signs last week encouraging people to call in tips, many of you wrote on the WINK News Facebook page that you don’t think tipsters really stay anonymous.

Only WINK News went behind the scenes of the organization to see how it really works.

When you call in a tip to Crime Stoppers, you are directed to a call center in Canada. It’s another layer to protect your identity because those call records can’t be subpoenaed.

Trish Routte with Crime Stoppers says, “when someone calls the hotline, no calls are recorded. We never ask for any kind of personal identification, we don’t even write down if you are a male or female, what your reason is for calling Crime Stoppers… you provide the information and we ask the questions to try and make you feel a little more comfortable. Once you give that information, you are given a code number, just a series of five or six numbers, and that is the only way we know who you are. We then take that information, we immediately pass it along to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation, if that information ends up leading to an arrest, you are eligible for a cash reward.”

The reward money can vary from $25 for a tip that leads to an arrest for graffiti, to $1,000 for a tip that leads to a homicide arrest.

And the program works. Crime Stoppers pays out reward money every week, and paid out about $130,000 last year.

Every Wednesday, tipsters can call in for status updates on the case they are associated with.

“They’ll call and we’ll say okay, what’s your code number? And they give us the code number, we look it up on the computer, and if it shows CBA, closed by arrest, we’ll see what amount the board approved, send it to the bank,” said Routte.

“When they call in, how they provide the information, when they pick up the reward, that’s all on their terms and I think that should provide some sort of comfort and security, so when they do the right thing and provide information, all of those measures are in place to protect them.”

It’s also important to know that your identity may not be kept secret if you report to a specific agency instead of Crime Stoppers.

Routte says, “nobody wants this in their community, nobody wants these shootings, nobody wants drug deals in their neighborhoods. If you know something, you have a completely anonymous tool to stop the violence, stop the crime in your neighborhood so there’s no excuse not to do it.”

To send a tip to Crime Stoppers, you can call 1-800-780-TIPS (8477) or you can submit a tip through the app, text or website at



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