Local Crime Stoppers group wins awardPublished 3:51pm Monday, October 29, 2012
Huntsville is at the top of the world when it comes to fighting crime.
Crime Stoppers International awarded the Huntsville Area Crime Stoppers the 2012 Productivity Award at a conference at the beginning of October in Las Vegas, Nev.
The local Crime Stoppers program consists of Huntsville Police Department Officer Nathan Nickelson and a community board.
The Productivity Award is given based on the increase in the number of arrests and cleared cases in an area populated by up to 300,000 citizens.
“We’ve had about a 65 percent increase in arrests and about a 68 percent increase in cases cleared and cases solved,” said Nickelson of this year’s results. “Along with that we’ve had about a 62 percent increase in stolen property and narcotics getting taken off the street and merchandise and property returned back to these businesses and homeowners.”
In January a software program called TipSoft was added to the tools of Huntsville Area Crime Stoppers.
“We used to have nothing but the landline, and now we have the landline, but we also have the TipSoft, which allows us the web tips and the text tips that come in in almost real time,” Nickelson said. “So now the general public is calling and texting and web tipping to us almost in real time, to where we’re able to solve crimes at a much higher rate.”
Since the introduction of TipSoft, Nickelson said the number of tips received has tripled.
Nickelson said he has had cases where “the offender is sitting in the other room, and I’ve received a text tip, and a few minutes later police knock on the door and nobody knows how they got that information.”
“We would just like to thank our community for working with us and using this technology to help us help them keep this community safe,” said Dr. Harry Hobbs, HPD communications relations officer.
Nickelson said most violent crimes stem from drug use. “If we’re able to get to those tips out, you know to the officers on the street, and get those folks before they commit those violent felonies, that’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Crime Stoppers International includes 23 countries and 1,400 law enforcement Crime Stoppers organizations.
Huntsville began the Crime Stoppers program in 1984.
“We’re the only program in the state of Alabama that has a sworn and bonded police officer as a coordinator, so the other programs have to go through that middleman process to notify dispatch and get those officers out there,” Nickelson said.
Nickelson took over the program a decade ago, when about 80 to 90 cases were being cleared every six months. Now 700 to 800 cases are cleared monthly.
“People are getting better at community policing, but also the cash we pay out overcomes empathy,” Nickelson said.
In 2009, Huntsville Area Crime Stoppers won the Media Sponsor Award for best overall “Crime of the Week” segment.
To submit a crime tip, call 256-532-7463, text 53CRIME and the tip to 274637, or visit http://www.hsvareacrimestoppers.org.