It’s been 37 years since the Crime Stoppers of Great Bend and Barton County started offering cash rewards for anonymous tips. Thanks to timely information about crimes, local law enforcement has made 480 arrests and cleared 438 cases, said Jere Buehler from the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors. The group has also paid $98,550 in cash rewards.
“We’re probably one of the only organizations in our area that wants to give money away,” Buehler said. “Our motto is, We don’t want your name, just your information.”
Thanks to new technology, it is easier than ever to share a tip. People can call 620-792-1300 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to leave an anonymous tip about crime. And for long-distance calls from outside of Great Bend, the toll-free number is 1-888-305-1300.
Now, people can also leave a tip online, from a computer or smartphone, by going to P3 Global Intel’s website, p3tips.com. The P3 Tips app is available for Apple and Android phones.
“We’re completely anonymous,” Buehler said. Telephone calls used to go to a line at the police station dedicated to that purpose. Because the calls are anonymous, the phone was only an option when there was someone there to answer it. But starting in 2019 and continuing today, the phone calls are now routed to a call center in Texas that is available 24 hours a day. “It adds another layer of anonymity,” Buehler said.
The tips coming in are almost evenly split between telephone calls and web-based/app users, Buehler said.
These advances in technology have also led to faster results because the call center can also contact the local 911 dispatcher for immediate response if warranted. And it means Barton County can network with other Crime Stopper organizations.
“A week ago we had a tip about a fugitive from Barton County that came from the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers,” Buehler said. “They sent it to us for action. Then last week we networked with a Crime Stoppers organization in Memphis; a tip on a crime in Memphis apparently came from our area.” The Tennessee organization sent the reward money to Barton County, where it was collected. “We don’t know where that person was from. We don’t want to know,” he said, stressing that anonymity is a Crime Stoppers requirement.
How it works
Anonymous tipsters leave information about a crime that has happened or one that is being planned. They can also leave information about the location of someone with an outstanding warrant. Even information about suspicious activity can help law enforcement build a case.
The tipster is given a code number and can check back later to see if the information has earned a reward. That can take some time, Buehler said. The Crime Stoppers board meets monthly and decides if any tips have helped solve or prevent a crime, led to an arrest or resulted in the recovery of property.
“As our last meeting, we gave four rewards totaling $1,250,” Buehler said. One timely tip led to the recovery of a stolen vehicle, and others led law enforcement to people with outstanding warrants.
If a tip is helpful, the person who has earned a reward is told to visit a certain bank and will receive instructions on how to collect an envelope that contains cash. The person’s identity is never revealed and rewards are not subject to income tax reporting, regardless of the amount.
All of the money for rewards comes from donations. “Through the kindness of donors, our rewards have grown substantially," Buehler said.
Crime Stoppers needs public involvement to work, Buehler noted. Unfortunately, only one call was received last December. The good news is that participation has been growing in recent months.
Great Bend Police Chief Steve Haulmark has added a Crime Stoppers of Great Bend and Barton County “Most Wanted” poster to the GBPD Facebook page, and that has led to as many as 25 tips in the month of May.
Here are some statistics on the success of Crime Stoppers from its inception in 1984 to Oct. 19, 2021:
Arrests - 480
Cases Cleared - 438
Rewards Paid - $98,550
Arson Loss Value - $200,000
Homicides - 5
Property Recovered - $1,100,540
Drugs Seized - $1,174,850
Total Recovered - $2,245,390