By Robin L. Gardner
A Cabarrus County school bus is stolen and makes national news. As police look for leads, a tip is called into the Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers, and case closed.
The Crime Stoppers program uses tips from private citizens to help solve crimes that take place in our area.
Totally anonymous tips are called to the Crime Stopper’s hotline, 704-93-CRIME.
Crime Stoppers works to keep the process totally anonymous. When someone calls the tip hotline, the phone that receives it has no caller ID.
The caller gives the tip to the officer of choice — a Concord, Kannapolis or Cabarrus County sheriff’s deputy. The caller gives the officer a four-digit code of choice to identify them later.
The officer will give the tip to the appropriate investigator, and if an arrest happens, the tipster is paid. When the tipster checks back and an arrest has happened, they are directed to a local bank where they can pick up the money.
“We guarantee anonymity,” said Sgt. Bryan Ritchie of Kannapolis Division of Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers.
Crime Stoppers began in another incarnation in 1982 in Kannapolis and was very successful, according to Ritchie. However, he says, when the two chambers of commerce for Kannapolis and Cabarrus County combined in 1996, the program fell by the wayside.
Ritchie, who has been on the force for 20 years, took over Crime Stoppers as part of his duties in 1999. He met with the chief of police and his other commanders to either find a better way to conduct the program or do away with it.
“We decided the program could still work. There are a lot of good things to come out of it. So let’s try to merge it with the other two agencies and make it a county-wide program,” said Ritchie.
The merge occurred in 2003.
Sgt. Keith Cauthen of the Concord Police, an officer since 1982, and Deputy Eric Sossoman from the sheriff’s department, who has been in law enforcement for 19 years, joined forces with Ritchie in 2003 to create the Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers.
“It has taken over four years to get the officers who haven’t worked with Crime Stoppers to understand it. Law enforcement officers are funny when it comes to information,” Ritchie said.
“We give the information to whoever is working the case; the investigators will follow up (on the information),” Cauthen said. “They must find independent means to back it up, because the tip is anonymous and the caller will not be testifying in court.”
Cauthen and Sossoman explained how a bus stolen in December by teenagers was retrieved by a call to the hotline.
“We take the information they call in,” Sossoman said.
“They rode the bus down to a wooded area and left it. I went down with another officer and sure enough found it on its side,” Cauthen said.
“You just never know what you’re going to get,” added Sossoman.
Crime Stoppers will pay out on an arrest, recovery of stolen property, warrants and substantial recovery of drugs, all three officers emphasized.
Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers is a tax exempt 501 (C)(3) nonprofit group. It receives no funds from any government agency.
The money Crime Stoppers uses comes from private donations and fundraising events.
The annual golf tournament will be held April 27 at the Cabarrus Country Club.
Most of the money raised for this program comes through this event.
The cost of the tournament is $75 per golfer or $300 for a team. There are also sponsor opportunities for the tournament at $100 up to $1,000 (tax deductable).
Chris Shoemaker, of Ben Mynatt Dealerships, serves as the head of the board of directors for Crime Stoppers this year and is organizing the fundraiser.
For more information on the fundraiser or to reserve a spot, call Chris Shoemaker at 704-721-7452.
• Contact reporter Robin L. Gardner: 704-789-9140.