Fighting crime is a community effort. And aiding law enforcement officials in Somervell Country just got easier.
Last week, Somervell County Crime Stoppers board of directors launched somervellcrimestoppers.com, a website that provides information on the local organization and offers a secure system for submitting anonymous tips.
The organization, which includes a board of directors and Darrell McCravey, law enforcement coordinator, held an open house Thursday introducing the system and explaining recent efforts to revamp the Crime Stoppers program.
The process of submitting a tip online is simple, with step-by-step instructions provided. The website generates at tip identification (ID) number , which allows tipsters to follow up on the status of cases and determine if they will be rewarded for their assistance.
The revitalization effort also led to the creation of a local text a tip program. To use the service, tipsters simply text SOMERVELL and their message to 274637 (CRIMES). An automated system then provides a tip ID and allows the tipster to submit follow up information. The communication with law enforcement officials continues through an anonymous thread until the user texts "STOP" to terminate it.
While Crime Stoppers has successfully helped track down suspects in the past, McCravey said the new system offers something that was lost in the old - but still operational - method of phoning in a tip to the local hotline - (254) 897-7777.
"In the past, we used the telephone system where tips could be left on a voicemail system," he said. "There were many cases after the caller hung up that we wished we could have asked questions."
The online system will allow officials to continue to probe for information while still guaranteeing anonymity.
"We can ask questions and they can provide answers while remaining anonymous," McCravey said.
He said sources will not be tracked by using IP addresses or cell phone information and extensive research led the organization to go the extra mile in protecting tipsters by using a service that stores all the information taken in by the online system in Canada.
The revitalization effort was made to shine a light back on the program and also offer way to connect with younger community members by providing a method of communication with which they are comfortable.
"It is away they can help keep their schools and communities safe without worrying about retribution and being exposed for providing that assistance," McCravey said.
Somervellcrimestoppers.com is not just about reporting crimes, it also offers resources and information aimed at preventing them, according to board member Becky Bailey.
Regular crime awareness articles will be shared with website visitors, providing statistics on crimes like home burglaries and providing tips for protecting homes or information on drug use and gang activity and signs for detecting such issues and consequences of the activities. The is a section that offers an overview of the program and another explaining how it helps to keep Glen Rose ISD safe.
Meanwhile, a news and events section allows community members to remain informed about the program, where current postings include information on a contest that invited Glen Rose High School Art I students to submit entires to a logo design contest. The final logo, emblazoned across the Somervell County Crime Stoppers website, was submitted by Justin Beeson and a slogan submitted by Jason Rambon, "It only takes one call to stop crime," is also displayed on the site.
An external links tab directs visitors to websites for the Amber Alert system, America's Most Wanted, a Sex Offender Search system, the local sheriff's office and a data base that provides information on crimes across the United States and beyond.
McCravey said he hopes one particular section of the website will help law enforcement officials solve a cold case still haunting a local family.
A missing persons case section has been included on the website, where there is currently one entry - Jana Mann Whitt - a local woman who has been missing since Aug. 17, 2005. Anyone with information on her whereabouts can leave anonymous tips.
"Sue Banks, Jana's mother is now 83 or 84 years old," McCravey said. "Not a month goes by that she doesn't call to ask for information and see if we have anything to provide on her daughter's case. Someone out there has information on Jana and hopefully they will see this and leave a tip so be we can finally close that case and bring closure to the family."
The Crime Stoppers board, which includes Chairman EK Hufstedler, Vice-Chairman Gary Whittle, Secretary Kim McAnally, Treasurer Kathy Roberts, Bailey, Rhonda Cagle, Danny Chambers, Marilyn Phillips, Amy Woods and Campus Coordinator Mike Reynolds, is encouraging the community to join the effort of keeping Somervell County safe, by participating in the program that has become a vital part of the justice system.
In addition to assisting the local sheriff and police departments, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers, the program is utilized by organizations like the Texas Department of Public Safety's 10 Most Wanted program.
Gov. Rick Perry recently signed a proclamation designating January Crime Stoppers Month, which said statewide, the organization has led to 175,000 arrests and $1.2 billion in recovered in property and narcotics since 1976.