Compelled to act after hearing how an anonymous tip led Arlington Heights police to solve a rape case, residents and business leaders have launched the Palatine-Inverness Crime Stoppers.
The volunteer group, which rewards anonymous tipsters up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest, will hold its kickoff fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, at Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St., Palatine.
"I think a lot of crime goes unsolved because of a lack of tangible tips," said Rich Portmann, the group's chairman. "We hope this will take away the fear of retaliation and perhaps offer some motivation."
Although it took more than a year to form, write the bylaws and operating procedures, file for nonprofit status and secure insurance for board members, the premise is fairly simple.
Anyone with information about a crime can call the Palatine-Inverness Crime Stoppers tip line at (847) 590-STOP (7867). To protect both the caller and the organization members, the entire process is anonymous. There's no Caller ID, and tipsters don't provide their name. They do receive an ID number and instructions to follow up in the future.
If a tip leads to an arrest, the tipster is due a reward. Portmann said the money usually is left with a bank to be claimed.
"Sometimes, if someone is worried about surveillance, we'll instruct him to meet somewhere, maybe a Dominick's parking lot, to hand over the envelope," Portmann said. "Another person will be there to monitor."
Board members decide how much the tip is worth based on factors such as the severity of the crime, how many arrests resulted and the risk to the caller. Rewards typically are less than the maximum amount.
The tip number is shared with similar groups in Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Rolling Meadows. Portmann said each community's police department is made aware of tips that come in.
Portmann said Palatine-Inverness Crime Stoppers members have contacted several hundred local businesses and plan to distribute "window clings" to be displayed to get the word out.
Fundraiser admission is free. There will be raffle prizes and Durty Nellie's will donate all tips.
Crime Stoppers is an international organization that began in 1976 when investigators were desperate to solve an armed robbery and murder in Albuquerque, N.M. A young man who witnessed the crime provided police with valuable information.
For more information about Palatine-Inverness Crime Stoppers, visit facebook.com/paymefortips or email firstname.lastname@example.org.