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Iowa City program implements updates on its website

BY RACHEL GREEN | SEPTEMBER 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City police hope that by expanding an existing program, people will be better informed when it comes to crime in their community.

Iowa City Crime Stoppers was created in 2007 to help reduce crime by giving tipsters incentives to call or alert police while remaining anonymous. This year, the website received updates that officials say will, hopefully, get the community more involved.

“We are trying to engage the community in new ways moving forward, learning their preference in communicating with us,” said Ryan Harvey, the vice chairman of Crime Stoppers.  “Our website has been completely redesigned where law enforcement can upload pending cases that need community help in solving.”

Iowa City police Officer David Schwindt said police can solve most minor crimes, but he liked the idea of adding a subscription-based email service in order to reach people more quickly.

“I knew it wouldn’t work if people had to keep checking the site, so that’s why we created the email,” Schwindt said.

Subscribers receive pictures and videos from security footage. If someone can positively identify a suspect based on the information, they will receive at least $1,000.

“Since its start in 2007, we have paid out thousands of dollars in rewards for tips leading to arrests for crimes that may have remained unsolved without our support,” Harvey said. “The community has been behind us since we first started, and that support continues to grow today.”

Harvey serves as both a board member and owner of a State Farm branch, which helps Crime Stoppers raise money.

Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit organization, is funded through private donations and an annual golf tournament held with its partners.

With the revamped website, law-enforcement officials are also able to upload pending cases for community members to see.

“I believe that Crime Stoppers will continue to be successful because it’s run by volunteers who are dedicated go-getters,” Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said. “They make sure Crime Stoppers is here to stay.”

Because Crime Stoppers is guaranteed to be anonymous, it attracts more attention from community members, he said.

“Crime Stoppers … gives an incentive, and it’s guaranteed anonymous, which brings in more community participation,” Hargadine said. “There have been numerous crimes solved by calls from Crime Stoppers, including robberies.”

Harvey said the organization connects important aspects of the Iowa City area that are pivotal to the program’s success.

“There have been similar organizations that we have seen have success in Iowa, and felt there was a need for this community to have the same bridge among three partners — community, law enforcement, and media,” he said. “As our community continues to grow, we find this to be more important.”


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