Coins commemorate 30 years of Lake County Crime Stoppers
BY NATASHA WASINSKI For Sun-Times Media | @NatWaz December 26, 2013 6:46PM
As municipal law enforcement agencies are struggling with tight budgets and manpower shortages, Crime Stoppers director Andy Anderson said his agency — which is celebrating 30 years — is more needed than ever. | File
Updated: February 25, 2014 4:19AM
Granting cash rewards in exchange for anonymous tips has been the Lake County Crime Stoppers’ hallmark strategy for the past three decades.
This year, the crime-reporting program offered supporters a different token of appreciation in the form of a challenge coin.
Attendees at the annual fall luncheon received a commemorative medallion featuring a golden eagle and anniversary banner on an American flag backdrop.
Now, Crime Stoppers just wrapped up its 30th year by putting 10 of the limited edition coins on eBay for $9.99 a piece. Though they are now sold-out, more coins may be made available if there is a demand.
“You find there are many people out there in various walks of life that collect challenge coins,” explained Executive Director Andy Anderson.
He designed the Crime Stoppers’ first coin soon after assuming the leadership post in 1999. A second medallion was issued following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Anderson — a 73-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and retired law enforcement officer — said the tradition of using challenge coins as symbols of membership and achievement began in the military.
The coins are now collected by other fraternal organizations like police and fire departments, he said.
Ingleside-based attorney David Zipp recalled how he and his comrades used emblematic coins to mark their membership with the Marines.
During nights out, for example, a solider would slap a coin on a table without warning as a challenge to comrades, he said. Whoever failed to produce a coin had to buy a round of drinks.
“It was a cost effective way of sharing a story that would last longer that telling it,” said Zipp, who sits on the Crime Stoppers board of directors.
He hopes the dissemination of Crime Stoppers coins would spread the word of the program’s services and raise some much-needed dollars.
Like most nonprofits, Crime Stoppers has felt the weight of limited funding post-recession.
With only one full-time employee, the crime-reporting hotline is essentially a one-man operation. Anderson fields and vets all calls, works with local investigators to relay information, and crunches data.
Crime Stoppers’ revenue comes from court fees, private donations and grants, though the contributions nowadays aren’t as plentiful.
Meanwhile, municipal law enforcement agencies are struggling with tight budgets and manpower shortages of their own.
This, in turn, makes Crime Stoppers’ work that much more needed, said Anderson.
“A lot of detectives that get involved have an extensive caseloads,” he said. “What we need is the eyes and ears of our good citizens in and around Lake County.”
The success of the program is determined by an ability to convince witnesses of wrongdoing to come forward. Crime Stoppers also runs a gun buy-back program.
Both initiatives include a cash incentive.
“Money is the root of all evil but money talks,” Anderson said. “These are healthy rewards.”
Crime Stoppers issues rewards up to $1,000.
“You can’t pay people 1960s dollars anymore,” said Zipp.
Since its inception, the county’s crime-fighting hotline has paid out $945,000, including $26,750 in reward money to date in 2013.
The return-on-investment has been significant.
In three decades, tips to the hotline lead to the recovery of $28 million in property, the seizure of $22 million worth of drugs, and 6,400 arrests.
Crime Stoppers is credited with helping close 10,100 cases.
To keep afloat, Crime Stoppers has been forced to think creatively to raise awareness and funds, such as with its challenge coins. Zipp personally would like to see more towns direct money collected from fees and fines to the countywide hotline to ensure its future.
“The more we have, the more we can do,” Zipp said. “We want our next 30 years to exceed what we have already done.”
If tipsters have information on a felony crime or fugitive, contact Crime Stoppers at (847) 662-2222. For more information go to www.lakecountycrimestoppers.com.