Students putting the skids to crime

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 26, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Several students from Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools met Wednesday with Suffolk Police Chief William A. Freeman, Police Lieutenant Debbie George, Detective A.L. &uot;Tony&uot; Boone, Detective Sergeant Mike McKenzie, and Officer J.J. Jackson. That meeting was held in Fire Mountain Restaurant and the students were there to represent &uot;Crime Stoppers&uot; for their respective schools.

The students serve as board members of this group, which is an arm of &uot;Crime Line Incorporated,&uot; a program that works with local communities, partnering with the media and law enforcement to provide crime-solving assistance to law enforcement.

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Crime Stoppers was established in Suffolk Public Schools in 1994. Officers Andre Weaver and Kimberly Mayo serve as liaisons between Suffolk Police and the students. As Mayo explained, the program has met with great success in the schools with students using it to help remove criminal activity and other problems from the halls of learning.

Weaver also said that through the Crime Stoppers program, students can anonymously provide information on crimes to the school resource officers. Most of the students serving on the Crime Stoppers board recall the Columbine incidents and want to stop trouble before it begins at Nansemond River and Lakeland.

Freeman encouraged the students to stay involved in the program and he noted that they are taking a bold step in the right direction in their young lives.

&uot;A lot of people will step back, where you have chosen to step up,&uot; he said. &uot;If you don’t think what you are preparing to do, serving on the Crime Stoppers board, is important, think back to Columbine. I think what you are doing here now is saying that you will not allow a situation like that to occur in the City of Suffolk. I commend you on your efforts, and if there is anything we can do to support you in what you are doing, don’t hesitate to come to us.&uot;

Suffolk Police Detective A.L. Boone, the Crime Line Coordinator, also offered the students an even more secure manner in which to report wrongdoing in the schools.

&uot;We understand that a lot of times you don’t feel comfortable with making a phone call or going to a school administrator,&uot; said Boone. &uot;We are offering a new web page where you can anonymously report criminal activity and we want you to think of how this will make the Crime Stoppers an even more efficient tool.&uot;

Ross Boone, the vice chairman of the Suffolk Crime Line and president of academic affairs at Paul D. Camp Community College, also met with the students to welcome them to the Crime Line program.

&uot;Let me tell you on behalf of the Crime Line board how wonderful a job we think you’re going to do,&uot; said Boone. &uot;We want to remind you that you are an important link in the well-being of our community.&uot;

Boone added that without the help of the Crime Stoppers, many instances of crime would not have been dealt with in an effective and judicial manner.

Crime Stoppers are a proud group of young people and as they gathered for lunch, Belleine Najacque stepped forward to represent Lakeland High.

&uot;I am extremely proud to be on the Crime Stoppers board and I want to help stop the crime in our school,&uot; said Najacque. &uot;As board members, we will be able to do fund raisers and other projects to earn money to pay for information to help police keep crimes out of our school. I’m pleased to be able to help out.&uot;

Ashlin Jenkins, of Nansemond River High, said she was asked last year to be a part of Crime Stoppers and after learning of their mission, she was ready to serve on the board.

&uot;I just don’t want to see an incident like Columbine in our school,&uot; said Jenkins. &uot;I feel that if they could have had a Crime Stoppers program in their school, that situation may have been prevented. I serve as a peer counselor and maybe a counselor could have talked to those two boys.&uot;

The Crime Stoppers program began in Albuquerque, N.M. in September 1976. A cash reward was offered to anonymous persons who telephone the Crime Stoppers hot line with information which led to the arrest and indictment of the person(s) responsible for felony offenses.

The Crime Stoppers program has enjoyed great success boasting an average conviction rate of 95% on cases solved by Crime Stoppers’ tips.

Det. Boone said Crime Line/Crime Stoppers is based on the principal that someone other than the criminal has information that can solve a crime. The programs were created to combat the three major problems faced by law enforcement in generating that information: fear of reprisal, an attitude of apathy and the reluctance to get involved.

Crime Line and Crime Stoppers resolves these problems by providing anonymity to people who provide information about crimes, and by paying rewards when the information supplied leads to arrest.

Citizens are responsible for forming a Crime Stoppers non-profit corporation, whose directors establish policy, determine amount and method of reward payments, work closely with the police and the media and generally oversee the program. The directors are also responsible for fund raising, and all volunteer service. Crime Stoppers methods, objectives, successes and phone numbers are publicized on a regular basis by the media. An unsolved &uot;Crime of the Week&uot; is given special treatment with details published in newspapers, on radio and in certain cases a re-enactment on television.