Crime Stoppers: Is your identity truly a secret?

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ANCHORAGE - KTUU Anchorage Crime Stoppers is a program designed to keep your identity a secret to help police solve crimes.

"How can you remain anonymous is the big mystery people wonder about," said Anita Shell, Anchorage Crime Stoppers Coordinator. "How do I call in, remain anonymous but still be eligible for a cash reward? That doesn't seem possible."

Shell said it's possible because the program operates completely in secrecy with its tipsters.

"We never breach that trust, that guarantee of anonymity," she said.

According to Shell, it's about getting information, not people's identity.

The program works in two ways:
1) People can call 907-561-STOP.
2) Tips can be taken online at anchoragecrimestoppers.com by clicking on 'Give A Tip.'

After the tip is taken, the tipster is given a number.

"It's important for the tipster to write that down. That's the only way we know who you are," Shell said. "We really don't know who you are. You are a number to us and that's all we want."

With hacking and identity theft at an all time high, Shell said online tips remain safe.

"All the information is received on a server outside of the state and then the information is scrubbed or encrypted before it's sent back," she said. "There is no electronic footprint for us to check back and figure out who it was that submitted the tip."

A big misconception, according to Shell, is the Anchorage Police Department operate the program.

Anchorage Crime Stoppers is a non-profit organization. It's managed by a group of volunteers who serve on a Board of Directors.

Rick McCrorie, Board President, said the main function of the board is to serve as a public trust. Board members constantly raise money for the rewards.

When a tip leads to solving a crime, he said, the board decides the amount which can be anywhere between $100-$1000.

"We use a formula to guide us," McCrorie said. "The formula is really just a guide because some crimes affect the community more than others."

According the McCrorie, there are four factors and a point system used in the reward formula:
1) The severity of the crime.
2) The number of people arrested.
3) The amount of property and/or drugs recovered
4) The risk to the tipster

"Some times the caller will call in and say: 'Bob is sleeping on my couch. I know he has a warrant out for his arrest,'" Shell said. "The risk is pretty high because probably one or two people know Bob is sleeping on a couch."

An arrangement is made between the board and the tipster at a safe and public location for the tipster to receive the reward, according to McCrorie.

Many times, Shell said, the rewards will go unclaimed. For this year, 60% of tipsters decided not to accept their reward.

"People just want to help clean up the community. They don't want to take Crime Stoppers money. They just want to keep their community safe and clean," she said.

Tipsters have helped the Anchorage Police Department solve more than 100 mysteries a year, according to Shell.