Crimeline sees rise in tips, number of cases solved



When police are asking for tips from the community Crimeline offers anonymity and the possibility to qualify for a cash reward.

That system has paid out more than $250,000 in the last 12 months and lately it has been responsible for solving some major crimes.

WFTV's Mark Joyella found out why it's working.

The family of murder victim Victoria Straughter got their day in court, a chance to face the man convicted of killing the young woman who hoped to be a doctor.

Straughter's killer, Ruben Rodriguez, was arrested after a tip to Central Florida Crimeline, the nonprofit group devoted to helping families find justice by helping law enforcement close cases.

"The beauty of it is it's that link between the community and law enforcement that maybe they wouldn't have," said Barb Bergin, executive director of Crimeline.

In 2007, Crimeline received 9,600 calls. Since then, tips have jumped 25 percent with more than 12,000 calls coming in over the last 12 months. Those calls led to 1,169 arrests and 909 cases closed, 12 of them have been homicides. Tipsters taking advantage of Crimeline's complete anonymity and, of course, the payoff, totals $254,000 paid out over the last year.

"I think it's anonymity that drives it more than anything, not the rewards, but definitely the anonymous part," said Bergin.

Those statistics have quietly put Crimeline among the elite groups of its kind not just in the U.S., but throughout the world.

"Our population we serve is about 2.7 (million)," said Bergin. "And we're taking in as many tips as the Crimestoppers program in Toronto and they're servicing more than 8 million people."

So how do they decide who gets how much money?

It's determined by Crimeline's board. Members look at recommendations from detectives about how useful and important the tip was and then make the call. The payout process is a closely kept secret.