Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization (charity). A civilian community board of directors provides direction as to the financial and promotional activities of the program. One of the board’s most important jobs is to meet each month to evaluate arrests and decide on the size of rewards to be paid, up to $1,000 ($3,000 for homicides and certain other high profile crimes).
Like other Crime Stoppers programs in the state of Florida, Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers is primarily funded through a state grant program administered by the Florida Attorney General’s Office. What’s unique is that this state program ISN’T funded by tax dollars! The money comes from a “Crime Stoppers Program Fee” that’s part of the package of fines, fees and costs assessed on felony court cases. Each year, every Crime Stoppers program in the state receives a grant equaling the total amount of Crime Stoppers fees collected the previous year by the courts located in that program’s jurisdiction.
In other words, next year’s rewards are paid for by this year’s criminals! This annual grant pays for rewards, program advertising and some program operating costs, but it doesn’t pay for everything. To pay for needs not covered by the grant, Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers accepts sponsorships from business and individuals throughout the community and holds a few fundraisers each year.
Does Crime Stoppers Work?
The answer is quite simply yes. Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers was founded in 1984 and received its first tip June 6 of that year. Two days later, the suspect was arrested and charged with 8 drug-related offenses; more than $2,500 in narcotics was seized. Since then, Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers has received nearly 45,000 tips resulting in tens of thousands of arrests and cases cleared and multiple millions of dollars in drugs seized and property recovered. Through 2013, the program had paid more than $650,000 in rewards.
The success of a Crime Stoppers program cannot be purely judged on statistics, however, other benefits have come to notice:
- A greater awareness in the community that there is a crime problem.
- A willingness by the community to fight back against crime if it is given the opportunity and motivation.
- Improved relationships between police, media, and the community.
Crime Stoppers is definitely here to stay. It has been accepted by police as a valid and effective investigative tool and the public, through its overwhelming response, appears to have accepted it as a more palatable alternative to traditional methods of giving information.