Crime Stoppers of Houston marks 30th anniversary

November 1, 2011 3:52:48 AM PDT
When it comes to stopping crime and catching criminals, there is no other group as successful. It's not the cops, not the FBI; this group doesn't even take tax money. We're talking about Crime Stoppers, known best as 222-TIPS. We have a closer look at 30-year-old Crime Stoppers of Houston and how it all began.

Randi Wood has no idea who made the call that led to the arrest in her 24-year-old son's murder case.

"Even though it might not have been the easiest thing to do, it was the right thing to do," she said.

Sam Irick had stopped to get gas in southwest Houston when he saw a woman being robbed at gunpoint.

"Sam, he, he intervened and tried to stop the man and he was shot and killed," Wood said.

Crime Stoppers distributed photos of the killer. Some one called in a tip, telling police where to find him, and an arrest was made. It took just three days.

"We arrest more felons and we pay more cash rewards than any other Crime Stoppers that exists," said Katherine Cabaniss, executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston.

In the past 30 years, Crime Stoppers of Houston has solved some 30,000 cases and paid out nearly $9 million in reward money.

"It's not any tax dollars and no taxpayer expense," Cabaniss said.

How did the Crime Stoppers program come about, how did it begin?

"It was actually a group of businessmen, it was a group of businessmen in the Downtown Exchange Club that started Crime Stoppers," Cabaniss said.

Jack Loftis, an editor for the Houston chronicle at the time, was one of them.

"We were meeting in a hotel, a regular directors meeting, and when I came back, all my hubcaps were gone from my car, so that just made me more dedicated -- we have crime in this city, let's get rid of it," Loftis said.

The group put up the reward money and asked us at Channel 13 to feature the crimes on the news. And we, along with the University of Houston drama department, did re-enactments, showing the crime as it took place.

The re-enactments worked, sometimes too well.

"One time after 13 did a dramatization of a crime, this guy comes in and turns himself in," Loftis said.

He thought it was actual video of him doing the crime because it was done so well.

"One evening we were shooting a re-enactment of an armed robbery at a convenience store when someone drove up and thought it was a robbery in progress and called 9-1-1!" Channel 13 Photographer George Brown said.

And here's what may surprise you: Crime Stoppers is not operated by the police. They simply staff the tip line and chase down the leads.

"Money makes the memory work well," said Deputy David Crane with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "Frankly, I think there are a lot of people that know at the scene the information that we need and they will hold back for that reward."

And even though those old re-enactments have been replaced by news conferences and surveillance photos, Crime Stoppers still works - anonymously and efficiently as it has for 30 years.

"I think I knew it was there. I never really expected it to touch my life like it did," Wood said. "When the worst happens, that's when you really are very glad that they're always there."

Crime Stoppers of Houston recently bought a building downtown and they plan to offer more crime-fighting services.


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