1 December 2023

Volunteers 'worth their weight in gold' celebrate silver anniversary of Crime Stoppers ACT

| James Coleman
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Crime Stoppers

ACT Region Crime Stoppers was established in 1998. Photo: Crime Stoppers.

Every week in Australia, 80 people are arrested because of a report through Crime Stoppers.

According to a 2018 Impact Report, this saves $170 million each year in prevented crimes, returned property, reduced drug harm, and the cost of running law enforcement.

Crime Stoppers is the go-to portal for reporting crime in Australia, either via phone or online.

It allows people to provide anonymous information about suspicious or criminal activity without being directly involved in the investigation process. And you could be eligible for a reward of up to $1000 if the information you report results in an arrest and prosecution.

The national organisation was first formed 31 years ago, but the idea for a local arm in the ACT wasn’t conceived until 1996. Two years later in 1998, the ACT Region Crime Stoppers was established.

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A celebration event was held in Canberra last week to mark the program’s 25th anniversary.

ACT Region Crime Stoppers chair Oliver Forrester joined 12 years ago, and doesn’t remember the very early days, except to say the idea piqued the interest of the police commissioners at the time.

“They saw the value and the amount of information being gathered through the Crime Stoppers services around the country, and thought ‘This is definitely something we should have in Canberra’.”

Classified as a not-for-profit organisation, Crime Stoppers sits separate to law enforcement in the judicial hierarchy, alongside Neighbourhood Watch. It relies on corporate partnerships, government funding and other donations to run its call centres, online reporting platform, community awareness programs and education campaigns.

Oliver Forrester

ACT Region Crime Stoppers chair Oliver Forrester. Photo: ACT Region Crime Stoppers.

“Not everyone is comfortable contacting or reporting information directly to the police and that’s where Crime Stoppers comes in,” Oliver says.

“If people see or hear something suspicious, or you witness criminal activity or hear someone planning a crime, we urge you to tell Crime Stoppers. It’s a 24/7 service and you can remain anonymous.”

Over the last 12 years, Oliver has seen the number of reports jump each year.

“In 2018, we ran some national research which showed just how much trust the community puts in Crime Stoppers.”

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A large part of this comes down to a greater use of online technology, distinct from the more controversial online forms used by ACT Policing.

“We’re seeing a huge shift in online reports because it’s easy for people – they don’t have to talk to anybody, and the quality of the information we get out of them is really great intel.”

One online platform includes Bikelinc, a tool originally developed by the Crime Stoppers team in Western Australia, where bike owners and retailers can create a free profile of their bike using its serial number. If the bike is stolen and recovered, this serial number can be accessed on the Bikelinc site and the bike returned to its rightful owner.

Back on four wheels, 21 cars on average are stolen in the ACT every week. In the last year alone, more than 1100 cars were stolen in Canberra, so Crime Stoppers launched another campaign on 27 November to tackle this.

It urges Canberrans to lock their cars, keep their keys in a secure place and their valuables out of sight. It also asks everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious behaviour.

Police and Crime Stoppers members at the launch of Bikelinc.

ACT Policing’s Commander Michael Chew, Detective Inspector Mark Rowswell, former Crime Stoppers chair Diana Forrester, Crime Stoppers board member Shelley Thomson and Pedal Power CEO Ian Ross at the launch of Bikelinc in 2020. Photo: Michael Weaver.

It’s achievements like this that make Oliver most proud.

“The number one thing for me is that I’m just really proud of how the community, the media and the police and Neighbourhood Watch have all come together to work towards creating a safer Canberra. And I feel we play a really critical role in that.”

ACT Policing wished a “Happy 25th Anniversary to our friends at ACT Region Crime Stoppers”.

“Silver is the traditional gift for a 25th anniversary but we think these dedicated volunteers are worth their weight in gold,” it posted to social media.

Call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at crimestoppersact.com.au. For police assistance, phone ACT Policing on 131 444. In emergencies, phone 000.

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