- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
In April, police arrested a Waldorf man and charged him with intending to sell drugs out of an ice cream truck.
The man, who was found with marijuana and a large amount of cash set aside from the ice cream business in the truck, was arrested with the help of a tip that came in from the long-running community program Crime Solvers.
Law enforcement is always interested in tips from the community, and for the past 30 years, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, through the Crime Solvers program, has paid for tips that lead to an arrest or conviction in a case.
The Charles County Crime Solvers program is a nonprofit organization run by a board of local residents interested in reducing crime in the county.
The board raises money through fundraisers to pay citizens up to $1,000 for tips about crimes that have been committed. The sheriff’s office does not fund the program.
Diane Richardson, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office and member of the Crime Solvers board, said in the ice cream truck case, the anonymous tipster was paid a few hundred dollars.
Cpl. Donald Kabala, coordinator of the Crime Solvers program for the sheriff’s office, has been the liaison between the sheriff’s office and the Crime Solvers board since 2002 and said the program gets up to 500 tips a year and has resulted in hundreds of arrests, he said.
Last year, Kabala said 289 tips came in through the program, and 26 arrests were made. The program paid out $6,850.
All tips are anonymous, Kabala said, and the payouts are not done at the sheriff’s office.
The program has partnerships with local businesses for payouts. If a tip warrants a payout, the tipster is told where to pick up the cash reward and does not have to provide identification when picking it up.
Kabala said leaving a tip is completely anonymous, too. Tipsters can call, email and text tips to Crime Solvers hotline numbers and email addresses. Kabala is alerted to the tip, which is assigned a number rather than a name.
On many occasions, Kabala has been able to have a conversation with a tipster, never knowing who it is.
“We don’t get IP addresses. We don’t get phone numbers. Tips only come through as a tipster number,” Kabala said.
The tip is relayed from Kabala to the necessary detective or department and then investigated.
“It is important to know that when we receive a tip through Crime Solvers, our detectives first have to substantiate the information,” Richardson said. An arrest can’t be made on a tip alone, she said.
Once the tip is investigated and leads to an arrest, the detective tells Kabala how helpful the tip was to solving the case on a scale of one to 10. That information is passed on to the Crime Solvers board, who then determine the payout.
The Crime Solvers program has 22 board members who meet once a month to review cases, determine payouts and discuss upcoming fundraisers and other business.
“We vote as a body as to how much we should pay the tipster,” said Vince Lake, board president.
Lake has been a member of the board for seven years.
He said the organization receives no county money and that all payouts come from funds raised by the board, donations and board dues.
Betty Jean Turner of Waldorf is a life member of the program and has been working with it for 20 years.
She said she grew up in Charles County and that over the years, she has enjoyed meeting many people in the county.
“The safety and security of the county, my family and co-workers are of the utmost importance,” she said.
Being able to raise money to allow the sheriff’s office to offer payouts for tips is very rewarding, and she hopes it makes a difference by helping to reduce crime in the county.
While the Crime Solvers program has been active in the community for 30 years, the program recently moved into the school system through a partnership with Charles County Public Schools.
Kabala runs the school-based program, which is similar to the community-based program. There are tip boxes set up in the schools where students can fill out a form describing their tip. The student tipster stays anonymous, and a ticket is attached to each form with a number.
Kabala said tips are reviewed and relayed to administration staff and if the tip leads to administrative action or an arrest, the tipster can anonymously pick up the reward by bringing the tipster ticket to a designated location at the school.
Kabala said payouts in the school have been as much as $500.
The payments made to students are paid through the Charles County Crime Solvers program.
The school program has been in place since 2007.
”We’ve always wanted something in the schools for kids to give information,” Kabala said.
The tip boxes are available in all the county middle and high schools.
Students in middle school are shown a video on how the program works at the beginning of the school year.
The majority of tips that come in through the school program, Kabala said, have helped prevent fights, and some have been related to drugs.
“Fifty percent of tips in high schools are directly related to drugs,” he said.
Around prom, school resource officers will promote $100 payouts for information that leads to underage drinking parties.
Since the program started in the schools, it has received 1,867 tips, of which 539 resulted in administrative action or an arrest; $20,000 has been paid out in cash rewards.
The program, Kabala said “teaches kids to be responsible and safe.”
He said it teaches them that “it’s OK to report things that could be dangerous or illegal in the school.”
Got a tip?
Anyone wishing to call in a tip can do so anonymously by calling Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS, texting CHARLES + your tip to CRIMES or going to www.ccso.us.
For more information about Crime Solvers, call Cpl. Donald Kabala at 240-320-6832.