Most Summit County Crimestoppers tips come through text messages

Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-29 07:57:59-04

Summit County Crimestoppers received 253 tips in 2016 — the most in the organization's 13-year history — and the majority of the tipsters sent text messages to provide information on crimes.

Copley Police Chief Michael Mier, who is a Crimestoppers board member, said $6,200 was paid out last year on eight tips that led to arrests.

"Almost all of our tips now are coming in text messages," Mier said. "It's totally anonymous because the tips are texted and they go through two different computer servers that aren't even in Ohio and they're encrypted, so even if we wanted to try to find a tipster, we could not."

People who have crime information are encouraged to call 330-434-COPS or text TIPSCO, along with their tip, to 274637 (CRIMES).

For the past four years, Crimestoppers has used a service through TipSoft to help manage tips. A part-time employee keeps tabs on the information provided.

Mier said in the last year he has noticed a surge in unsolicited tips, almost on a daily basis, from people texting in information about suspected drug houses.

He also explained that texting is giving law enforcement a way to receive real-time information.

"We've actually had cases where a tipster provides us with a tip on activity take place somewhere, illegal activity, and then we've texted them back and said, 'Thank you very much, but can you give us license plate numbers of cars that you're seeing there?' And they will text us back the license plates."

However, a few tipsters are still making phone calls to provide clues to cops.

In August of 2016, vandals caused serious damage to Boettler Park in Green, including setting the historic Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse on fire.

RELATED: Five teens arrested for arson, damages to historic Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse in Green

After the story hit the news, someone dialed the Summit County Crimestoppers hotline with critical information on the arson that destroyed the schoolhouse built in 1885.

"They provided information about one of the suspects and it really got the ball rolling on the arrests and conducting a search warrant," said Inspector Bill Holland from the Summit County Sheriff's Office.

The next day, five teens were arrested, including 18-year-old Brandon McCrosky and 19-year-old Matthew Swan.

Both men were convicted of various crimes in December and sentenced to three years community control.

The person who provided the tip was awarded $1,000 through Crimestoppers.

This Thursday, the Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse Committee will make a recommendation on whether to tear down what remains of the building, do a modify tear down, or rebuild it.

In the past, Crimestoppers has offered a maximum reward up to $2,000 for information that solved a case, but now the organization is willing to pay as much as $5,000 for some of the more serious, violent crimes.

"We found, with the Crimestoppers program, not all tipsters are looking for a reward. There are a lot of folks in the community that know that something has taken place. They don't feel it's right and they want the police to have the information they need to solve the case," Mier said.

When a person provides a tip, he or she is provided with a secret number. The tipster is told to call Crimestoppers at a later date to find out if they're eligible for a reward. If so, an arranged meeting is scheduled and the cash is handed over.

"We don't ask for anything other than that ID number," Mier explained.

The majority of the reward money comes from private donations, but a small percentage is provided by the Summit County court system.