Milwaukee Crime Stoppers: Here’s how it works and how to stay anonymous

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With gun violence at an all-time high, it's important that everyone do their part to stop it. For many citizens, that means reporting when you see or hear about crime in your community.

It's easy to report crime anonymously from anywhere using the P3 Tips App or calling 414-224-TIPS.

However, if you've never done it before, it may be intimidating. CBS 58 wants to make sure you know exactly how Milwaukee Crime Stoppers works.

Crime stoppers is an international organization with chapters in cities all over the world. It's been around for nearly 50 years, and in that time the program has helped solve more than 1.2 million cases in the United States by giving people a way to report tips without anyone knowing who they are.

"We have put about 800,000 bad guys in jail. During that time, we have paid out over $117 million in rewards. Not everybody calls back for a reward. People don't want police coming to your house," said Wisconsin State Crime Stoppers President K Scott Abrams.

In October of 2019, a group of concerned citizens officially formed one in Milwaukee.

One of those people was Wisconsin State Crime Stoppers President K Scott Abrams.

"It's your civic responsibility to report information about crimes and criminals," Abrams said. "We offer an opportunity to do it anonymously instead. That's not snitching. That's helping your community become safe and safer."

Abrams is the current treasurer for the Milwaukee Crime Stoppers Board, and has been involved with the Crime Stoppers organization for more than 40 years.

CBS 58's Amanda Porterfield: "How can you guarantee that when people call, their call is anonymous and they can go on about their life and never been contacted by police or show up in court?"

Abrams: "The only reason crime stoppers exists is to provide that anonymity. That is our promise to the community that we will never identify those involved because we don’t know who you are we."

Here's how it works. You pick up the phone and dial 414-224 8477, or download and use the P3 Tips app.

When you dial or use the app, your phone number is scrambled so when the call center answers they have no idea who you are.

"That information is provided into a call center someone who is trained to take information about a crime," Abrams said.

You provide your tip to the person on the line or in the chat, then they give you a tip code number.

"We give them a tip number, that's the only way we will be able to identify them. Nothing to do with their name, nothing to do with their address, it's just a tip number that will be used in communicating back and forth with that tipster and in the payment of that reward," Abrams said.

You keep that tip number and then you have to call back a few weeks later, and provide that tip number to see if the crime you called about has been solved.

"Milwaukee Crime Stoppers' phone number, we don’t have caller ID on that. It's just a phone number. A blank phone with a couple of buttons. When we get things on our internet that's all scrubbed. We don't want the name. We just want your information," said Abrams.

CBS 58's Amanda Porterfield: "Has anybody ever been found out their identity?

Abrams: "No. Not through a Crime Stoppers tip. Reporting a crime, no."

After you provide the tip, the information goes to the police department. Detectives use that information to work on solving the case.

CBS 58 sat down with Milwaukee Police Department Chief Jeffrey Norman.

"These particular tips does shorten the time of finding out who is involved, helping us identify potential witnesses and potential suspects but also further the conviction and prosecution of these individuals," Chief Norman said.

CBS 58's Amanda Porterfield: "Do you feel Milwaukee Crime Stoppers is an asset to the community?"

MPD Chief Norman: "Absolutely. We see and continue to see a lot of success stories in regards to assisting us to bring fugitives into custody. Receiving tips as to who is causing harm. Again, we are information driven and through these tips there is a result of a reward."

Once the tip has helped investigators make an arrest, they let the board know.

Based on the details of the case, and how detailed the tip was, it helps the board decide how much reward money the tipster gets. But again, the only way you learn if you'll get a reward is if you call back with that tip number. Crime Stoppers can't contact you.

If your tip solved a case, the person on the line will tell you the secret location where you may pick up your cash.

CBS 58's Amanda Porterfield: "Another question I get is, 'Won't they find out my identity when I pick up my money? Again, through the tip number?'"

Abrams: "When they go to pick up their reward all they do is give that tip number, the envelope is handed to the individual, all done by cash.

CBS 58's Amanda Porterfield: "And there's no cameras watching these people right?"

Abrams: "No."

Since 2019, tips into Milwaukee Crime Stoppers have made arrests in five homicides, solved more than 40 crimes so far, and rewarded anonymous community members with more than $13,000.

However, with the violence we've seen, there's a lot more work to do -- with your help.

"Sometimes we are the best unknown secret in the community. We want to get that word out to everybody so they know what it is," Abrams said.

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