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Crime Stoppers arrives in Selma

Helping to put a stop to crime in the Selma-Dallas County area was the sole agenda as several dozen business people gathered in City Hall Tuesday evening to organize a local Crime Stoppers chapter.

Crime Stoppers is a nationwide organization with more than 1,000 chapters that seeks to unite police, the press and the public in the fight against crime.

Atchison, who has a 22-year background in criminal investigations, has largely spearheaded efforts to organize a local chapter thus far. He was enthusiastic in his support of the Crime Stoppers program.

The premise of the program is simple. Residents who spot suspicious activity in their neighborhood call a predetermined number and leave an anonymous tip. If the tip leads to an arrest or indictment, the caller receives a monetary.

Working through the local newspaper and television and radio stations, police spotlight a &uot;Crime of the Week.&uot; Atchison likened it to the recent Washington D.C. sniper case, which was solved by a tip received after law enforcement personnel asked for assistance from the public in solving the crime.

The assurance of anonymity and a monetary reward are the keys to making the program a success, he added.

Atchison emphasized that the tip only has to result in an arrest or an indictment, and not necessarily a conviction.

He also said that the program strictly enforces anonymity for the caller. There is, for example, no caller ID on any Crime Stopper phone line. &uot;Without that anonymity,&uot; he said, &uot;the caller may be reluctant to call.&uot;

The amount of any reward is determined by the local Crime Stoppers board. Funding for the rewards comes strictly from individual and corporate donations; no government money is involved. Donations are tax deductible.

Atchison estimates that the program will need $10,000 just to get started.

The payoff, he added, is less crime.

Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr. agreed. He noted that the sheriff’s department and the police department combined have fewer than 100 law enforcement personnel to cover a county with 976 square miles and a population of 47,000.

He added that an effective Crime Stoppers program can greatly enhance efforts to deter crime by, in effect, extending the reach of law enforcement personnel. &uot;The great thing about this program is that it’s not just for one area, it’s for the entire county,&uot; he said.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. added his voice to those supporting the move to establish a local chapter of Crime Stoppers.