Successful 2013 could be helped by new signs, return to campus

Dec. 27, 2013 @ 04:35 PM

Henderson-Vance Crime Stoppers is setting a course for more visibility and for recruiting more young members in 2014, hoping to improve on this year’s achievement of solving 11 cases.

Topping the list of things to do is a project to place permanent street signs throughout the city and a renewed effort to get Crime Stoppers active in area schools, starting with the high schools.

The first batch of signs are heading to select neighborhoods, according to Rev. Frank Sossamon, the president for the local Crime Stoppers chapter.

He added that unlike the plastic yard signs, the street signs are metal and made with reflective paint for nighttime visibility.

“These are attractive signs. They are an attempt to create greater awareness that there is a number to call to inform on crimes,” Sossamon said. “This will get the message out. We want to keep plugging that message wherever we can.”

Lt. Irvin Robinson of the Henderson Police Department, the local coordinator for Crime Stoppers, said city work crews will erect the signs and ensure their compliance with sign placement protocols.

“It will get Crime Stoppers out to the public more, with the phone number and the website,” Robinson said. “The city is going to help us with getting those up.”

According to Sossamon, the first batch of signs totals 25 in number. Three of them are in Spanish.

Eventually, the signs will be in every neighborhood, Sossamon added.

“We are selecting different areas of the city to put these,” Sossamon said. “This is just the first wave. The signs will eventually cover the whole city. It would probably take a couple hundred to do that.”

There will be increasing coordination with city leaders on matters of where the permanent street signs are able to go without running afoul of any city ordinance or state rule about proper traffic and parking related signs already up.

“Our plan is to have them everywhere it is appropriate and legal,” Sossamon said. “We don’t have an exact number yet on how many signs we will be able to have.”

Crime Stoppers has been active in the schools before, but 2014 will bring a renewed focus on defining that wing of crime solving effort.

According to Sossamon, the process will start with input from Vance County School administrators.

“The signs are just one of our new initiatives,” Sossamon said. “We hope to get the campus crime stoppers going, in the high schools first and eventually trickling down into the middle schools.”

Robinson said there are specific safety and fear issues with getting a successful campus program going.

“We had it in there before, and we are trying to get it back in there,” Robinson said. “We will be having a meeting with the superintendent and the principals.”

According to current information on the Henderson-Vance Crime Stoppers website at hvcrimestoppers.com online, the main organization would serve as parent to “Scholastic Crime Stoppers” in the county school system.

The campus program’s focus includes crimes committed at school and against students, with rewards of $50, or up to $100 offered for solving school crimes.

The recommendation as it stands now is for rewards to be paid through school counselors, principals or others designated by a Scholastic Crime Stoppers Board of Directors. That board would include student members, two from each high school class grade, and a chairman.

Students would also be involved with fundraising efforts to increase the funding pool for informant rewards.

Another opportunity likely to appear in 2014 is placing the Crime Stoppers cause and contact information on a large billboard sign, Sossamon said, thanks to an in-kind donation by a local businessman.

The yard sign campaign will continue with its important ongoing mission, Sossamon added.

“Those yard signs not only present our message and the phone number, but they are an indication of the support we have in the community,” Sossamon said.

Robinson said next year he would like to keep some higher stats on crimes solved, even though solving 11 crimes, one of them a murder, is a good tally for 2013.

“We cleared 11 cases, and Crime Stoppers paid out the money,” Robinson said. “We paid out on one homicide, an assault shooting, several other assaults, a couple weapons violations and drug violations.”

Robinson said the task of the citizen volunteer organization could grow to clearing many more crime incidents, adding to the deterrent to committing the crimes in the first place.

“I hope this will work to help us get more of these crimes off our streets,” Robinson said.

Crime Stoppers operates a 24-hour hotline seven days a week at (252) 492-1925. Caller anonymity is strictly guarded. Information passes on to appropriate law enforcement agencies, and then the caller is paid a reward by the board of directors.

Crime Stoppers is funded by donations from businesses, industries and individual citizens.

None of the Crime Stoppers budget goes to salaries. All work is voluntary and unpaid.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.