By Dylan Deprey
When 9th District Alderwoman Chantia Lewis’s cousin was T-boned in a hit-and-run crash two years ago, tips on the fleeing driver grew stale.
“They left him there to burn in the vehicle, and fled,” Lewis said. “It took a year to find out who the driver was.”
Lewis said the yearlong wait for justice was excruciating. She said the trauma and emptiness was something no family should have to experience, especially when witnesses stayed silent.
Whether it was fear of retaliation from the suspect or others, she decided it was time for the community to have a collaborative approach to making Milwaukee safer. Ald. Lewis was accompanied by City leaders, law enforcement, community organizations and media to launch Milwaukee Crime Stoppers on October 15, 2019.
Partners involved in the Crime Stoppers initiative are Ald. Chantia Lewis, Mayor Tom Barrett, the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD), the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), the City of Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office, CBS 58 News, Hupy and Abraham, Safe and Sound, Program the Parks and We Got This.
The program is the 47th Crime Stoppers organization in Wisconsin. The non-profit organization offers anonymity for community tips regarding crimes in the community. It also offers up to $1,000 cash reward for any information that leads to the arrest of criminals, including those committing serious felony crimes, and fugitives.
“It’s important to have the citizens in the game,” said Mayor Tom Barrett during the press conference.
“It’s not snitching. It’s not meddling. It’s being a good citizen.”
Milwaukee Police Department Captain Craig Sarnow said many times the biggest challenge in closing cases was getting information from those reluctant to share out of fear of retaliation. According to Sarnow, neighbors can call the tip line at (414) 224- TIPS (8477) or online at milwaukeecrimestoppers.com.
“It is completely anonymous. Your phone number is scrambled and sent out to a call center outside the state of Wisconsin,” Sarnow said.
Sarnow said the key for the tip line is to give as much information as possible because Police will be unable to call the tipster back.
Amanda Porterfield, CBS 58 anchor, said while reporting on crime scenes, neighbors and witnesses would come up to her and share information, sometimes even whispering it in her ear.
“They need to tell somebody, and they want to tell somebody, they just don’t want everybody else knowing about it,” she said.
She said she had witnessed the power of Crime
Stoppers firsthand while working as a reporter in Illinois and had to be a part in initiating the program in Milwaukee. As part of the initiative, CBS 58 will air its “Crime of the Week” segment on its 4 p.m. newscast.
“Milwaukee crime stoppers is for people who want to take their community back,” Porterfield said.
Crime Stoppers was created in 1981 and has made over 700,000 arrests and cleared over 1 million cases.
“This is just another layer for community collaboration to do what you do best and make Milwaukee safer,” Ald. Lewis said.