January is Crime Stoppers Awareness Month, and local representative Fran Myles says the much-needed program often has a struggle with receiving actual tips, and outlines what they should be.

"Our goal this year is to tell people what a good tip is," explains Myles. "We pay out tips when people report crimes and they report them anonymously over the 1-800-222-TIPS line. It's a secure line; it's not connected to anything. People get a number and then they have to call back to find out if they actually get some money from us. But our problem is that a lot of people aren't quite prepared, I guess would be the word for it, to give a good tip."

She explains a tip requires about 20 minutes to report on the tip line, noting Crime Stoppers needs information about exactly what happened. 

"They need to know where and then they need to know when," continues Myles. "All of which is fairly obvious. But the big question is, how do you know? How do you know that there was a break-in at your neighbour's? Were you out in the backyard at midnight watching? Did you hear from the person, more or less, directly, because you heard him bragging in the coffee shop? Did somebody say to you, 'I'm so worried about my kid or my cousin because I know he's involved in a gang. I know he's dealing drugs. I've seen it happen'? How exactly did you know about this particular crime?"

She adds this kind of information makes you ready to provide a tip to the tip line. Such an explanation has a pretty good chance of being a tip that's going to be further investigated by the RCMP, and you might get a reward for it. 

"In the last two years, there's been over $2,000,000 worth of stolen property recovered through the Tips line," says Myles. "There have been four or five arrests for assault. There have been two or three major drug busts, based on tips that have come in the last year."

Myles explains she can't relate how many dollars worth of rewards have been issued due to tips, seeing as the program is so anonymous that they do not know about what is happening. 

"We need more tips coming in. This is our our big problem right at the moment. Over COVID, people backed off and didn't call. So, our volume of tips has come down, but what I can tell you is that Portage and Steinbach are in a neck-and-neck race for the most tips that come in. On average, that would be about 50 to 60 per month." 

She says they're continuously looking for people to support and promote Crime Stoppers. If you're interested in doing some PR work, they could really use your effort.

"We are in the process right at the moment of distributing signs to all of the rural municipalities which have the Crime Stoppers number in the province, except for the City of Brandon, and the city of Winnipeg, which comes under our jurisdiction. We have sent out quite a number of signs for Cities and our EMS to post on their city yards, on school property; anywhere that they feel that they could use some warning. To a degree, knowing there's a sign there saying CALL TIPS is a protective thing, really."

Myles is a resident of Portage and says she gets together with other Manitoba board members four times a year to go over business and discuss issues.

"That's where we decide how much money we pay out," notes Myles. "The RCMP has a recommended amount for paying out tips and they'll come to our meeting and say, 'This particular tip resulted in three arrests that involved bodily harm. The recommended amount of money is $300.00.' So, we sit there and we say, 'Hmm, that doesn't sound very much. Maybe we should pay $400 to this person.'"

She adds Portage has a high crime rate and the RCMP needs assistance with tips. If you know something about a crime, you could be really frustrated because nothing seems to happen. If you use the Crime Stoppers number -- the CALL TIPS line -- it's a way of being involved and making yourself feel good about something, rather than just being frustrated and resorting to what could become vigilantism.

"Personally, I find it quite interesting because I know the program works. I know that everybody knows that somebody always knows something, and that's how the program started. A policeman in Arizona who happened to be a Canadian actually promised a mother that he would find out who murdered her child and he was having trouble. The case was at a dead end, so he went to the media. And in 72 hours, by using the media, the case was solved. So, Crime Stoppers works very, very well with media."

If you'd like to help, give Crime Stoppers a call at (204) 857-7146.

1 (800) 222-8477 (TIPS)