Anonymous tipline gives Michiganders a way to fight crime
The Silent Observer program has recently raised their rewards – and is getting high-quality tips.
Crime is on the rise around the country, and Michigan is no exception. However, as crime increases so does the determination of citizens who refuse to let it go unchecked. Silent Observer West Michigan is an anonymous tipline that allows citizens to help law enforcement solve crimes and make our streets safer while protecting the tipsters.
Silent Observer’s Chris Cameron told Mighty Michigan that there has been a marked uptick in violent crimes and car thefts since the beginning of the pandemic. In response, the organization has raised their rewards to the highest levels ever – no easy task considering they are completely self-funded. The reward for information that leads to an arrest in a homicide case has gone up 20% to $3,200, an arrest in a shooting with serious injury case has gone up 33% to $2,000 and a case involving a shooting with property damage has gone up 50% to $750.
“The increased reward is working. While the number of tips has remained about the same, the quality of the tips have gotten better,” Cameron said. “It tells me that people are fed up, they want to help, they want to do something about the crime that’s occurring and want to keep their families and their neighborhoods safe.” Because of the level of detail they have been getting “we’ve had good success as far as solving crimes this year.”
The police need the help of local communities as they face more crimes than there is time to investigate thoroughly. In the city of Grand Rapids, there have been 764 auto thefts so far in 2022 according to Cameron. In 2021, there were a total of 571 in 2021 and 391 in 2020. As in many communities, the majority of vehicles being targeted are models by Kia and Hyundai. Although encouraged by the monthly numbers, which went down in July, this is still an alarming trend.
While the economic conditions might be encouraging some to turn to crime, Cameron believes they could also be encouraging citizens to come forward with what they know. “In the past, most people haven’t claimed their reward,” she said. “Now, I’m seeing that people are actually claiming, and that could be because of economic conditions.”
Similar Crimestoppers organizations operate around the country to help law enforcement solve crimes. One great benefit to this program is the anonymity involved. “I know that some people are afraid to come forward,” Cameron said. “They’re fearful of retaliation or of a criminal justice system they might not understand. But using a Silent Observer or Crimestoppers program is really easy. Michigan State law protects all of our records and our tips, so their identity could never be found out.” That makes this a safe and anonymous way to keep Michigan’s communities safe.
Cameron says that is critical because, “police can’t do it alone, they can’t be everywhere all at once, so the community has to get involved in the fight against crime.”