By: Sarah Snyder
MIDLAND - The Crimestoppers tip that helped Midland Police catch two teens in connection with a home invasion, was one of hundreds of calls that pour into their offices every month. But their latest spike in tips aren't from phone calls, online and social media are playing a huge role in solving West Texas crimes.
Midland Police started the Crimestoppers program three years ago. The anonymous calls that pour in have solved some of our area's biggest crimes, but lately the tips are coming in through a very un-traditional method.
"Solving a crime is like a big puzzle," Sgt. David Garcia, with Midland Police and Crimestoppers said. "It takes a lot of pieces to put it together."
And for Midland Crimestoppers, finding that next piece of the puzzle on a case doesn't mean tipsters have to pick up the phone anymore. They re-vamped their program adding a website complete with videos and wanted suspects and lately they've seen a huge surge of Midlanders submitting tips online.
"If it's going to help us solve a crime and catch criminals, then we really like it," Sgt. Garcia said.
But they didn't stop there. After witnessing a crime, tipsters don't have to look any farther than their cell phone, and yes, even Facebook.
"We're seeing an increase in our text tips and online tips. It's all starting to take off," Sgt. Garcia said. "With technology, you have to keep up with it to stay ahead of the ballgame, so anytime something new comes up we try to get on board with it."
Whether it's through phone calls, the website, texting or Facebook, Crimestoppers is now seeing about 250 calls each month.
"The whole premises is based on the tipster as their called, remaining anonymous," Sgt. Garcia said.
Since they started the program the biggest surprise is the number of people who simply just want to help without accepting the cash reward. Right now, there's about $8,000 total left un-claimed.
"To me it's astonishing to have that much money in unclaimed rewards," Sgt. Garcia said.
Midland Police say the success of Crimestoppers is through the roof. Since it got started, they've put over 6,000 criminals behind bars and cleared about 9,000 cases.