Law enforcement agencies in Fayette County are teaming up to reinstitute a program through which county residents get paid to help fight crime.
But the program will be known under a different name.
Fayette County had been a participant in the CrimeStoppers program, but the county lost its certification a couple of years ago through lack of activity.
Vandalia Police Chief Larry Eason told the Vandalia City Council last Monday that the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in all county communities are joining together to operate Fayette County CrimeWatchers.
The agencies were interested in reviving a program through which residents can anonymously provide tips on criminal activity, and get paid when their tips lead to an arrest or indictment.
The agencies chose to initiate the CrimeWatchers program instead of going back to CrimeStoppers, Eason said, because of the number of rules and regulations associated with the national program.
The Vandalia Police Department will continue to operate the 24-hour tips phone line, 283-1986, and pass on pertinent tip information it receives to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Such a program plays an important role in law enforcement, Eason said.
“We have officers that are out on patrol, but they can’t be everywhere all of the time, so it’s important to have the eyes and ears of citizens in fighting crime.
“This program gives people who have knowledge of a crime a way to report it, and it allows them to do so anonymously.
“A lot of times, people who witness or know about a crime are afraid to report it to police, because they are afraid of the people who are arrested taking revenge,” he said.
The CrimeWatchers board has created tip sheets on which information about a crime is reported by citizens.
The CrimeWatchers dispatcher fill out a tip sheet, and that sheet is kept in secured location as the crime is investigated. The caller providing the information is given a tip number, and he or she will be paid a reward if the information provided leads to an arrest or indictment.
The callers providing the information will be asked to check in with the Vandalia Police Department on the status of the case.
Callers who provide information that leads to an arrest or indictment will be paid rewards if the information they provide leads to an arrest or indictment. The CrimeWatchers Advisory Board is working on finalizing the reward amounts that will be paid.
Eason said the CrimeWatchers group is using money leftover from the county’s CrimeStoppers group, and he said the city is contributing to the CrimeWatchers fund $1,000 that had been budgeted for CrimeStoppers.
Fayette County Sheriff Aaron Lay received the support of the Fayette County Board for the program on Tuesday.
Lay said the county also will be contributing $1,000 to the reward fund. He has freed up budget funds by taking $500 from the fund for inmates’ medical services and $500 from the fund for equipment.
Lay explained to the county board that the CrimeWatchers Advisory Board will meet monthly to assess the operations.
Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel told board members that he is looking into the possibility of some fine money being distributed to the CrimeWatchers reward fund.
Eason said the CrimeWatchers group is continuing to look at ways to build up that fund.