Crime Stoppers Honours Partners

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:40 a.m. May 10, 2019
Updated: 12:20 p.m. May 10, 2019

At the Toronto Crime Stoppers Chief of Police dinner, the sister of a Toronto officer, who lost his life in the line of duty, shared her story of how she became involved in Crime Stoppers and how the program played a key role in solving his murder.

A teenage boy holding an award
Student of the Year was given to St. Oscar Romero Catholic Secondary School Student Christopher Di Matteo

On August 4, 1998, D/Const. Bill Hancox was working undercover when he was stabbed by a drug addict in Scarborough. 

The 32-year-old officer succumbed to his injuries in hospital a few hours later.

Elaine Cece and Mary Taylor were found guilty of second degree murder.

Leslie Wagner joined the Toronto Crime Stoppers Board 14 months after her brother’s death and became co-chair of the annual Crime Stoppers golf tournament.

“After taking the first steps to become part of Crime Stoppers, I learned that day that the women’s arrest in my brother’s case was as a direct result of tips that came in through the program,” she said. “I felt like fate had stepped in and I had a little smile while thinking somehow this was meant to be.”

Wagner said Hancox had a wonderful sense of humor and an eclectic collection of friends and colleagues.

“He was also someone that showed compassion and demonstrated gentleness,” she added. “Bill always treated people, including criminals, with dignity and respect. More importantly, he loved being a police officer.”

The Bill Hancox Award of Excellence was presented at the 23 annual Crime Stoppers dinner May 8, to a unit that goes above and beyond in investigating tips provided by the public.

This year’s recipient is the Integrated Gun & Gang Task Force which has demonstrated their commitment to the program by thoroughly investigating tips that come in that have resulted in many arrests. In the last two years, a number of firearms have been seized as a direct result of Crime Stoppers tips.

A group of people on a stage
Leslie Wagner, centre, presents the Bill Hancox Award of Excellence to members of the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force alongside Chief Mark Saunders and Crime Stoppers representatives

“An effective Gun & Gang Unit with its enforcement strategies cannot be underestimated and the Toronto Gun & Gang Task Force’s partnership with Toronto Crime Stoppers is a proven commodity,” said D/ Sgt. Andrew Steinwall who, with Insp. Joe Matthews and D/Sgt. Richard Harris, accepted the award. “The work that Crime Stoppers does has real value.”

The Crime Stoppers Student of the Year Award was presented to St. Oscar Romero Catholic Secondary School Student Christopher Di Matteo who plays an active role in his school and community.

He was a mentor at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) SMILE camp that brings together staff, students, social workers, community liaisons and Toronto Police officers.

Di Matteo is also a TCDSB Safe Schools Ambassador and the Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team public relations co-ordinator.

“I am thankful to my teachers and parents for allowing me to be actively engaged,” he said. “I was raised in a Catholic household and that is where I got the passion for giving back.”

Di Matteo aspires to be a guidance counsellor.

“That’s one area where I think I could make a significant impact in young people’s lives,” he added.

Two men in police uniform with another man holding an award
St. Oscar Constable Peter De Quintal with Romero Catholic Secondary School Principal Stephen Carey and Constable John Freeman

St. Oscar Romero Catholic Secondary School principal Stephen Carey said Di Matteo is a model student.

“Chris is a great young man with a really positive outlook on life who is very involved in leadership at both the school and Board level,” he said. 

It was a big night for the school that was also the recipient of the John Mungham School of the Year Award presented to a school that actively participates in safety and crime prevention initiatives.

“The amazing work of the school community and their willingness to use the help of community partners is a testament to building a safer school and being the change we all like to see,” said Const. Martin Douglas, the Toronto Crime Stoppers Community Engagement Officer.

The current school liaison officer Const. John Freeman and former School Resource Officer Const. Peter De Quintal joined Carey in accepting the award.

“It’s great to be recognized for the work we are doing in student and school safety while making people aware that Crime Stoppers is around,” said the principal. “We have had amazing school liaison officers who, from cooking with students to being a support for them and being surrogate parents, have been great role models.”

The inaugural Gary Grant Media Award of Excellence was presented on his birthday to City TV who was the first media outlet to partner with Crime Stoppers by creating weekly crime enactments to highlight wanted suspects.

Since its inception in 1984, Crime Stoppers have received 154,771 tips resulting in over 11,250 arrests and 37,875 charges laid. In addition, over $64,650,000,00 in property has been recovered and nearly $333,000,000,00 in narcotics seized.

Chief Mark Saunders said there is more to the program than just numbers.

“It’s a force multiplier for the community to be part of,” he said. “We have to have the public want to help us. Once they do, we do amazing things that are sustainable.”

Two men with a woman against a Crime Stoppers backdrop
City TV's Tammie Sutherland accepts the Media Award from its namesake Gary Grant and Crime Stoppers Chair Sean Sportun

Saunders said the sponsors support is integral in sustaining the program.

“Your generosity has gone above and beyond,” he told them.”

Toronto Crime Stoppers in a non-profit organization operated by community volunteers who make up the Board of Directors chaired by Sean Sportun.

“Everything Crime Stoppers has done since its inception could not have been accomplished without the support and continued partnership of Toronto Police, our media partners and most importantly the citizens of Toronto, our supporters and corporate sponsors,” he added. “Your continued support is critical in the success of our program and in our efforts to make the City of Toronto a safer community.”

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and former Toronto Police Chiefs David Boothby and Julian Fantino attended the fundraiser.

The Toronto Crime Stoppers program was launched in 1984, after then-Chief Jack Marks asked retired S/Supt. Gary Grant – a Sergeant at the time – to start the initiative.

The program is supported by funds accrued from the annual Crime Stoppers Chief of Police dinner and the Toronto Police Crime Stoppers charity golf tournament.

Crime Stoppers is the brainchild of Greg MacAleese, who was an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department in New Mexico. After running out of leads in a homicide investigation, the frustrated cop turned to the public for assistance in 1976.

He produced the first crime re-enactment that was aired on local television and made available to other media outlets and promised that anyone providing information leading to an arrest would be eligible for a cash reward.

Within hours of the broadcast, police received a tip that led to the arrest of two suspects who were charged with murder. They were sentenced to life terms with no chance of parole.

Toronto has one of the largest programs in the world. There are close to 1,300 Crime Stoppers programs in nearly 20 countries.

Anyone with information about a crime that has occurred, or is about to occur, can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at  222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637) or  Leave A Tip on Facebook.

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