South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers looking for donations to help keep tips coming in

Paying for crime tips

The South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers continue to aid in arrests and convictions in cases, thanks to ongoing tips that come into their non-profit organization that are passed on to RCMP.

But the society needs donations from the community in order to keep attracting tipsters with knowledge of crimes.

Steve Berney, the local director and president, said they have launched a new donation feature on their website to aid in supporting the ongoing tips rewards that they offer for individuals giving valuable tips.

"We usually do our fundraising through events. In the last couple of years, we just haven't been able to because of the pandemic," he said.

"The necessity for the [donation] button was to make it easier for people to donate without just calling in or coming by and seeing the coordinator."

Since the start of 2023, the South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers site has had over 5,000 hits. In March alone, there were 1,578 hits.

As the group receives no government funding, they rely on the donations of our community to provide the cash rewards for the information that leads to solving a crime or an arrest.

"We have a reserve fund so that we can pay for any rewards, both present and even past if a person has provided information and weren't able to collect and then two years later they come back," Berney said.

"Being a nonprofit society, we need donations and interest in it, and the connection with our community members, otherwise we cannot exist."

Crime Stoppers has continually seen an increase of tips coming into their system.

"It helps by providing us a way to give information that people may not be comfortable with giving to a police officer and identifying themselves."

The dedicated phone line for the tip taking system does not have a caller ID and will not record the conversation between the tipster and the tip taker.

"Often times the people are in the fringe of the crime or on the fringe of they know who did it. And those are the people who are in the know and call us but they don't want to be identified because they still have probably a relationship with that fringe element," Berney added.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers currently has eight directors and one police coordinator that works with the group, attending their monthly board meetings.

Berney said the local crime stoppers group was founded in 1992, as a result of the the infamous riot of 1991.

Penticton was chosen to host the Music 91 festival, which was sponsored by the province, and featured a big name performer at the time — MC Hammer.

The riot became known as the "MC Hammer riot," even though the riot happened nowhere near the concert and it didn't get started until hours after the show was over.

After the concert ended, downtown suddenly had a flood of new people and people began ransacking the tourism centre. One group had managed to successfully roll the iconic Peach on the Beach into Okanagan Lake.

"We wanted to find a system that would help solve that crime and then it led to what we have today," Berney added.

"People are just running up the street and fights and all over so it's certainly calmed down since then but we still have a lot of crime. We still have a lot of trafficking, smuggling people and contraband."

Berney said, as a retired RCMP officer, he decided to join the Crime Stoppers Group as a way to keep active and also to give back to the community.

"The community has given so much to us. That's the reason why most of us want to make a difference."

Since inception, the South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers have aided the RCMP in recovering $1,874,505 in stolen property, $14,769,999 in drugs, arresting 878 people, clearing 990 cases, and laying 292 charges.

The organization has paid out $50,410 in rewards to date to tipsters.

Tipsters also have the option of giving tips online, which is completely secure and anonymous.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers are currently recruiting directors for their organization, which meet on the last Tuesday of every month.

More information and options to donate can be found online here.

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