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Napa Police Eye New Reward Program for Tips

“We already have a program in place much like Crime Stoppers, called Tip411. At this point, it meets our needs. However, we will be re-evaluating it and comparing it to Crime Stoppers." Napa Police Capt. Steve Potter

Although the is not taking part in the new program, police officials are watching from the sidelines as they weigh the pros and cons of joining other county law enforcement agencies in the cash-for-tips scheme.

“We already have a program in place much like Crime Stoppers, called Tip411,” Napa Police Capt. Steve Potter said Wednesday.

“At this point, it meets our needs. However, we will be re-evaluating it and comparing it to Crime Stoppers," Potter continued.

"We have received many tips from TIP411. But we will be looking into Crime Stoppers,” he said.

Napa Valley Crime Stoppers, part of a national program offering cash rewards of up to $1,000 for tips that lead to the arrest of criminals, was launched Wednesday with a briefing and light meal at the headquarters.

“The program has officially started,” Napa County Undersheriff John Robertson told the crowd of about 40 people, including the reporters, law enforcement workers and members of the local Crime Stoppers board of directors.

In addition to the county sheriff's office, the Calistoga, St. Helena and American Canyon police departments have all joined the Napa Valley Crime Stoppers campaign, which rewards anonymous tipsters with envelopes of cash if their information leads to arrests.

On Wednesday, guest speaker Carla Castro, who founded Stanislaus County's Crime Stoppers, said last month her county had 483 reported tips, out of which 16 resulted in what she called "captures."

Funded entirely by donations and operated as a non-profit with a board of directors, the program's roots in Napa County go back to 2009, after a 12-month span of  thefts of $400,000 worth of solar-power panels from Upvalley vineyards.

Vintner Michael Honig and the Rutherford Dust Society of grape-growers and winemakers are among the Napa Valley Crime Stoppers' founding donors.

David Honig, Rutherford Dust Society board president, said the vintners thought “Crime Stoppers was a good way to solve the solar-power panel thefts. We wanted the thefts to stop and this program looked like it would be a valuable asset to get this done.”

How it works:

  • Anyone with crime tips such as vandalism, theft, illegal drug activity may call or text Napa Valley Crime Stoppers to report criminal activity.
  • The tipster remains anonymous.
  • Each tip receives a unique Crime Stoppers number.
  • After giving law enforcement time to investigate the report, the tipster may call the Crime Stoppers hotline to find out if an arrest has been made.
  • If the answer is yes, the tipster or a representative goes to Wells Fargo Bank and presents the tip number.
  • He or she is then given an envelope containing their cash reward of up to $1,000.
  • Tips can be made by calling the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-450-9543 or texting to 274637 with NVCS at the beginning of the tip.
  • If a person is calling to report a crime in progress, police say to call 911.

“No questions are asked by the Crime Stoppers or bank personnel,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Craig Nickles. “I could not find out the person’s identity if I wanted to. There is no way to trace it.”

The Crime Stoppers board of directors reviews the tipped arrests monthly and determines the amount of the rewards for those eligible.

Sheriff’s Lt. Tracey Stuart said Crime Stoppers doesn’t send the message for the public to quit reporting crimes and identifying themselves.

“However, many people are afraid to report criminal activity because of fear of retaliation.

"Crime Stoppers assures anonymity for all callers,” Stuart said.

For more about the progam, see "."

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