‘If you see something, say something’

Sea to Sky Crimestoppers goes regional, increases social media presence

It’s been an especially busy year for the Sea to Sky Crime Stoppers.

The volunteer-based program joined forces with the Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers due to the changing nature of crime, grew their social media presence as well as its board of directors and worked closely with other community support programs like anti-sexual abuse projects, according to Jeff Cooke, chair of Sea to Sky Crime Stoppers.

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“Our anonymity is what keeps things going,” Cooke said. “As soon as we start talking specifics of cases, there’s a chance the program can lose its effect.”

Honouring National Crime Stoppers Month this January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged Canadians to report criminal activity anonymously, stating in a release that residents can help ensure safety in their communities and better understand the challenges for law enforcement.

The local non-profit Crime Stoppers organization covers detachments from Bowen Island to Pemberton. Last year across British Columbia, there were over 10,000 tips received leading to 235 arrests and 331 charges laid. Also, there was $1.8 million seized in stolen property and $6.2 million seized in drugs, according to Cooke.

The number of tips rose 20 per cent and Cooke attributes that growth to social media engagement. “You can put up pictures, videos, and better descriptions,” he said, noting the organization’s followers increased in 2017. “We’re getting better info and it’s leading to arrests.”

Crime Stoppers is confidential and shares information with the police without risking anonymity, Cooke noted. In 28 countries worldwide, the program is not an agency of police but cooperates between police, media and the public to solve cases.

“There’s a big firewall that prevents any identifying info from getting through,” Cooke said, of how information is shared.

The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly ruled tips remain anonymous. Those who speak out won’t be questioned by police or go to court, Cooke added.

“The people in the most vulnerable positions find the most benefit,” Cooke said. “It just helps get people who shouldn’t be on the streets, off the streets.”

A small fact can be the missing piece of the puzzle that puts someone away, he explained. Cooke said the organization is looking for more volunteers, with eight people on the board currently.

Wendy Shard is the community policing coordinator and responsible for ministering the tips. “I can tell you there is a constant flow of tips,” she said.

Working with the Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers unit has been a huge advantage since they merged in 2017, she said. It’s helped solve crimes by sharing vetted information across the Lower Mainland using tools like Twitter or databases.

Education is important, and that means engagement, Shard said, adding Sea to Sky Crime Stoppers recently launched a First Nations Crime Stoppers Strategy, plans to implement Grade 8 educational workshops, and had booths at several local events last year.

“This is a great way to have a safe community,” Shard said. “There is something you can do. If you see something, you can say it.”

For more information, visit www.solvecrime.ca or find the group on Twitter @SeatoSkyCS or Facebook @SeatoSkyCrimeStoppers.

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