No longer will Toronto Crime Stoppers (TCS) be offering reward money for tips to individuals.
As part of its rebranding strategy, those payouts are been replaced with a program that channels the organization’s funding efforts back into the communities they serve across the city through a new Community Reward Program.
The announcement was made on January 6 at police headquarters at an event to mark International Crime Stoppers Month, which was proclaimed by Mayor John Tory.
Last year, TCS engaged a brand marketing firm, The Community Agency, to assist in revaluating its program and looking at ways they can have a greater impact in the community.
“We analyzed our reward payouts over the last number of years and what we found was that only 17 per cent of those who submitted successful tips actually came forward to collect their cash reward,” said Sean Sportun, the Chair of the TCS Board. “We also took notice that 50 per cent of our on-line tipsters were selecting the ‘no’ option for the ‘are you interested in receiving reward’ question.
“As we strategized possible ideas, we began to realize there was an opportunity to possibly benefit the entire community. Perhaps if tipsters were not claiming cash rewards for themselves, they may be motivated to claim for the good of the community. After speaking to community members about a new forward-thinking strategy, the consistent response was clear and this is individuals believed that doing the right thing is its own reward,” he said.
Community members can now complete an online application on the Toronto Crime Stoppers website, 222tips.com/reward, with their ideas or requests.
“Our Board of Directors is committed to carefully review all applications that are submitted and will select those initiatives that fit within our mission of community safety throughout the calendar year,” said Sportun. “We believe that a program benefitting the greater good is more suited to the type of individuals who come forward rather than individuals who are motivated by monetary benefit.”
Mayor John Toronto, who is a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, said the rebranding is ‘in keeping with the times’.
“I think it is going to give more people more opportunities to access this program and provide more benefits to people,” he pointed out. “We need increased involvement on the part of the public in helping the police if we are going to keep the city safe.”
Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said the rebranding is a new beginning.
“It actually speaks to three of our goals which are be where the public needs us the most, addressing complex issues and building partnerships to ensure safer communities,” he said. “I was there when the rebranding was launched in Glendower to see how this money is going to be reinvested into community partnerships to ensure the young people in that community have a safe and welcoming place. When the kids came after school and saw how their room was transformed to a room they can really enjoy, they were so happy. This is where we need to invest. It’s great if we can make them understand at a young age that there are people who care for them.”
The first Toronto Crime Stoppers Community Reward was spent on the Glendower Beyond Academics Homework Club run by Cyleta Gibson-Sealy, who volunteers each day to help kids with homework, cook them a meal and mentor them.
“I always felt with some help, things could get better. It always bothered me when I saw kids who weren’t able to read well. So I started reading outside my door,” said Sealy. “When kids are struggling in school they seem to not care, why should I care?’”
She said her program creates a safe space for any child, free of charge and free of judgement.
“I have kids coming here since they have started school. We have group discussions, problem-solving and life skills. I have discussions about consequence. Sometimes they need to think ahead. They’re young and to get them to start thinking before they act.”
She also welcomes police officers into her space, including Neighbourhood Officers like Sgt. Julie Evans.
“It’s nice for our officers to come in and support the wonderful work she does,” Evans said. “She has a lot of credibility in the community and we want to establish relationships with young people. She helps us develop a sense of trust in the community.”
Sealy was overjoyed by the support of Toronto Crime Stoppers, Toronto Community Housing and Toronto Police members who took a day to refresh her space with some new furniture, adding a TV and helping organize the room. Sunny Foodmart owner Bill Chen also supported the day filling the kitchen with food.
“I’m not usually this emotional but this is overwhelming,” said Sealy, as she watched as volunteers added final touches to the room. “People see the police investing in us and our community and that is going to make a difference. When investments happen, relationships happen and things get better.”
The TCS 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
Since its inception, TCS has received 154,771 tips resulting in over 11,250 arrests, 37,875 charges, $64 million in recovered property and $333 million in seized narcotics.
In addition to facilitating tips from the public, Crime Stoppers has developed successful partnerships with the BOLO program and Uber.
Crime Stoppers is the brainchild of Canadian-born 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, which implemented the initiative 35 years ago, has one of the largest programs in the world. There are close to 1,300 Crime Stoppers programs in nearly 20 countries.
The theme for Crime Stoppers in 2020 is ‘See it. Say it. Stop it”.
Anyone with information about a crime that has occurred, or about to happen, can make an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at222tips.com or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.