GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — 34 years ago, Green Bay Area Crime Stoppers was born from a federal grant. 12 years ago, the group went digital, and has been helping law enforcement close cases more than ever before.
Green Bay Area Crime Stoppers is a civilian volunteer non-profit organization that runs anonymous, non-recorded tip lines to provide information for law enforcement as well as cash rewards for tips that lead to indictment or arrests. These rewards are funded by a few annual fundraisers and private donations. To ensure anonymity, payments are dropped off at locations instead of handed over in person or requiring bank information.
The group's next fundraiser is Tuesday, October 19, from 4-8 p.m. at Zambaldi's Beer. GBACS is the featured non-profit under the brewery's Pints for a Purpose program, and they will receive $1 from every pint sold during the event.
In 2009, the group expanded from strictly phone calls to include an anonymous tip portal on their website as well as joining the P3 app, a free smartphone app for download. Since expanding to these methods, the group has received more than 8,000 tips that have led to 722 arrests, 1,207 charges, and 476 rewards given to those who shared tips that results in arrests or indictments that total more than $43,000. The group has a scale that indicates how much of a cash reward is given to tips based on significance determined by the law enforcement acting on them.
"It's a civilian program, not a police program," said Dave Byrnes, a retired member of the Green Bay Police Department who has been involved with Green Bay Area Crime Stoppers for 27 years.
"We are not the police department, but we need to have both the public and the police and the Crime Stoppers organization in order to make the community itself safer by getting anonymous information to the agencies that can use the information," chapter president and former Oconto Police Chief Dale Carper said. "The rewards and the anonymity that are provided to the individuals that give tips are two very strong factors in making people comfortable coming forward to the Crime Stoppers."
Carper mentioned that many tipsters that earn a monetary reward for their information often turn the money down, citing a lack of interest in financial gain. De Pere Police Captain Chad Opicka, one of two Law Enforcement Coordinators cited on the group's website, has also recognized that sentiment.
"Since I started in 2008, we've probably received more phone calls, or Crime Stoppers receives more phone calls on a monthly basis right now than we probably received per year back in 2008," Opicka said. "Most people, to my understanding, don't do it for the reward. They do it because they want to do the right thing. They want to be involved. They want to provide that information, but they just may not want their name associated to it. So the mechanism to get that information to law enforcement is Crime Stoppers."
Captain Opicka says the current law enforcement officers involved act as "advisors" to the volunteer group.