Crime Line, we’ve got your number

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The phone number has to be one of the best-known ones in Hampton Roads. Repeated in countless newspaper stories and live news broadcasts, 1-888-LOCK-U-UP has become area law enforcement agencies’ answer to 867-5309, the phone number made famous by the 1982 hit song, “Jenny,” by Tommy Tutone.

Urban legends abound about the famous rock-and-roll phone number, and a New Jersey disc jockey and his roommates five years ago even requested the number for their home, fielding, they said, 30 to 40 calls a day from people looking for Jenny.

In Hampton Roads, 1-888-LOCK-U-UP also has received tons of publicity and thousands of calls since it was first activated in 1982. But that’s where the similarity between the two phone numbers ends. The local number is for Crime Line, and it has helped police clear more than 15,000 cases and recover millions of dollars worth of stolen property and illegal drugs since the program became active.

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Some callers offer tidbits of information about crimes they’ve read about but have no direct knowledge of. Others turn out to have been eyewitnesses who are afraid to come to police publicly. Some offer police information that helps them find and arrest known, wanted criminals or suspects. Others can only offer little pieces of the puzzle.

All are appreciated, according to Detective Carlos Gonzalez, chairman of the Suffolk Crime Line Board. “It’s very useful,” he said in a recent interview in preparation for a fundraising motorcycle ride. “Sometimes, it’s just that one little piece of information … that (I) as a detective may be looking at that gives me the edge. That may be the piece that I need to make an arrest.”

Surprisingly, Crime Line rewards to anonymous tipsters are supported only by private donations — hence the need for fundraising events. There’s hardly a more worthwhile organization in the community, and folks would do well to support it.