Harris Co. audit of Crime Stoppers incomplete when organization did not fulfill request

Friday, September 16, 2022
Crime Stoppers audit incomplete after nonprofit refuses to cooperate
Crime Stoppers has been criticized after two newspaper investigations say the nonprofit has "lost focus and become political, blaming democratic judges for issues of the bond."

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Since 1980 Crime Stoppers of Houston has provided their flagship anonymous tip line, robust victim advocacy, and community programming.

"They are the last source of support for many of these victims who have no one else to go to," Harris County Pct. 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey said at a commissioner's court meeting in April.

But since that meeting, the non-profit has come under scrutiny after two separate newspaper investigations by The New York Times and ABC13's partner the Houston Chronicle claimed the organization has lost focus and become political, blaming Democratic judges for issues of the bond.

"I do think as of late they have gotten far more political oftentimes in a partisan way in my judgment. And hey, it's perfectly legitimate for people to disagree and have their own preferences in terms of partisan politics, but I don't think that you ought to use public dollars to go and do that," Harris Co. Pct. 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said.

That's where a county audit comes in.

Ellis requested the audit in April to determine how much the county has given Crime Stoppers since 2012, how the money was used, and if the organization was following regulatory requirements.

The final audit, made public this week, reports the county has given about $7.2 million to Crime Stoppers of Houston over the last decade.

But the audit states their scope was limited while trying to determine how the funds were used because Crime Stoppers did not provide all the requested records.

"And then I was told that there were some challenges with getting the information for the audit from Crime Stoppers," Ellis said.

The audit states Crime Stoppers told auditors some of the requested records fall outside the non-profit's retention window and that they were not legally required to provide some of the sought-after information.

The organization, which has paid out more than $12 million to more than 23,000 tipsters since 1980, according to the Harris Co. audit report, responded to ABC13 Wednesday, saying, "We emphatically dispute any allegations of non-compliance which we plan on addressing shortly."

The Harris County Auditor's Office said on Sept. 1, Crime Stoppers of Houston did finally agree to supply the additional requested information, but as of Wednesday, they are still waiting on it.

The county auditor Mike Post said he expects to have an addendum to the final report once those records are provided.

Since ABC13's report, Crime Stoppers responded about the auditing process:

CSoH gave the HCAO a full book of requested information and had multiple calls and emails with them.

CSoH undergoes an independent audit every year by one of the most respected non-profit CPA firms in the U.S. The requirement for CPA firms to report every single detailed note in an audit, both good and bad, is extraordinarily high. As an open book, these reports live on our website along with our IRS Form 990.

For more on this story, follow Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can read the full breakdown from the organization, including what they had to say about their funding and judges on the Crime Stoppers website.

WATCH: Recent reporting highlights criticism against Houston Crime Stoppers

"They (Crime Stoppers) disputed any contention that this had any sort of partisan motive," said the Houston Chronicle's public safety reporter, who worked on the story.

WATCH: Harris County commissioner calls for Crime Stoppers audit after media criticism on the agency

Over the weekend, The New York Times and Houston Chronicle examined Crime Stoppers of Houston and raised questions on if the agency is politically-driven, highlighting its focus on bond cases.