YAKIMA, Wash. -- Over the last several years, Crime Stoppers Yakima County has given out more than $100,000 in reward money for tips that led to arrests. Recently, more good tips are coming in through text messages.
Crime Stoppers gets hundreds of tips every year through their phone and online site, but they say it's the people who are texting in the tips from their cell phones that's really helping law enforcement catch the criminals.
About a dozen tips come in daily from people reporting a crime into the Yakima County Sheriff's Office branch in Zillah, according to Beth Apol who works as the law enforcement specialist and is the Crime Stoppers coordinator.
"I look at the information and I send it out to the school, or I send it to the law enforcement agency that would get the information and follow up on it," says Apol.
Of the 50 or so tips Crime Stoppers Yakima County gets in a week, a majority of them come in the form of a text.
"It just seems to be an easy way for people to just pick up their phone and send out a text," explains Apol.
Crime Stoppers Yakima County recently launched a program working with high schools where students can report suspicious activity on campus. Right now, Eisenhower, Davis, Selah and West Valley high schools are participating.
"Basically, it's a way for the school and the students, teachers or anybody to report crimes," says Dave Purcell, President of Crime Stoppers Yakima County.
Purcell says they're hoping to expand the program to other schools in the county.
"When it's the misdemeanor account. This is money that's been put together by the students that they've raised, and they actually decide on the amount and they send it to us and we go it to the bank for the people," explains Purcell. "Whether it's graffiti, whether it's smoking, drugs of any kind. Anything that's going on, break-ins to the cars, fighting. They can report it through a text."
To text in a tip to Crime Stoppers, just send the word "YAKCO" with your message to 274637 or CRIMES. The sheriff's office will then be alerted to your tip. Whether it's texting, calling or emailing, the tips are anonymous.
"So we give them an identification number and from that number then they call back in, and if the person was picked up then we will actually pay a reward of up to $1,000 for that," says Purcell.
With the help from incoming tips over the last 22 years, Crime Stoppers Yakima County has put more than a thousand people behind bars, according to Purcell.
They are a nonprofit organization that rely fully on donations from the community.
On Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., Crime Stoppers Yakima County is putting on their Free Identity Theft Awareness Shred Day and Take Back Meds Day event in two different locations: Solarity Credit Union at 401 Tieton Drive in Yakima and American West Bank at 1010 Yakima Valley Highway in Sunnyside. For more information or to make a donation visit, http://www.crimestoppersyakco.org/.
Three ways you can submit tips:
*Phone (509) 248-9980 or 1-800-248-9980.
*Text a Tip: Text "YAKCO" plus your message to 274637 (CRIMES).
*Submit a Web Tip: www.crimestoppersyakco.org.