Since 1988, national charity Crimestoppers has grown into arguably the greatest support for the Police and the forces of law and order in the country. Anyone can contact Crimestoppers and report criminal behavior with absolute anonymity. Personal details of the caller are never sought. The mantra is “just one call can make the difference”. A report is made by the agent who takes the call – or reviews an online form – and which is passed onto the relevant Police station or appropriate agency. Over 600,000 contacts are received each year, over 1,500 a day, and more than 185,000 reports of vital information were passed on to the Police in 2021/22 – another record number. Thousands of offenders have been brought to justice as a result.
On 6th February the High Sheriff and his wife heard details of the work of Crimestoppers nationally from its CEO Mark Hallas OBE and Lynne Hack, the Chair of Crimestoppers in Surrey. They also spent time talking to the Head of Contact Centre Services’ Louise Peers and Tom, Duty Manager, in the Contact Centre regarding how the agents are trained to best manage calls. They need to have the ability to engender trust, ask the pertinent questions, and record with complete accuracy what they are told. An average call lasts no more than 3 minutes. However, it’s estimated that around 85% of people contact Crimestoppers online (www.crimestoppers-uk.org) by completing an online form.
Crimestoppers believes everyone has the right to feel safe from crime, wherever they live. Both their phone and online operation are available 24/7 365 days a year. Advice can be given on how to protect people or communities. There are anti-corruption and anti-abuse lines which will assist in rooting out any police officer who is an offender. Approximately 100 staff and 300 volunteers around the country are working for the charity. Many volunteers are former police officers. The costs are c.£7m pa. There are grants from Police Forces, the PCCs, and the Home Office, and money is also raised commercially.
The Fearless programme is part of Crimestoppers, (fearless.org,) and it is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Matters can be reported and access to youth support services may be given. This is another key means of helping people who need advice relating to criminal behaviour. There is a dedicated Fearless worker, who is funded by the office of the Surrey PCC. Since late 2018 she has spoken to over 7,000 young people across the county and given training to over 1,000 professionals, including GPs, social workers, and teachers.
The High Sheriff was particularly interested to learn about the reports of domestic abuse and violence against women, received by Crimestoppers. During his year of office, he has aimed to support victims and the agencies helping them. In 2021 Crimestoppers had 8,500 reports on domestic abuse, up 45% on the previous year. The charity is vital for a person who is anxious or cannot contact the police directly about the abuse inside or outside of their home. In January, the charity published a report about Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) to encourage reporting of this serious crime. Due to anonymity, Crimestoppers can only take information from those who have witnessed or have their suspicions, therefore domestic abuse victims who make contact are signposted to specialist services.
The High Sheriff, as a former Circuit Judge in the Crown Court, has known of Crimestoppers for a number of years. But he was not aware of the scale of its operation nationally nor of the location of its HQ. It does remarkable work and supports so many. It needs to be given further publicity, so that more and more people become aware of its existence, especially the young. It is a vital operation in the fight against crime, its impact is significant and it lives up to its name.