Edmonton Crime Stoppers may close for business

The Crime Stoppers Association of Edmonton says it's on the verge of closing, says Ambere Rosborough, the executive director for Crime Stoppers in Edmonton and northern Alberta.

The anonymous tip service has enough money to last four more months, says executive director

Crime Stoppers has been active in Alberta for about 30 years (CBC)

The Crime Stoppers Association of Edmonton says it's on the verge of closing, says Ambere Rosborough, the executive director for the organization in Edmonton and northern Alberta.

The organization, which takes anonymous tips from the public and passes the information on to local police, held a fundraiser on Saturday night at Uncle Glen’s Eatery and Sports Pub in Patricia Heights to bring in some much-needed funding.

Rosborough says the chapter only has about $67,000 left in the bank — enough to keep them in operations for four more months.

The cause for this trouble, says Rosborough, is a decline in individual and corporate funding over the past few years, coupled with an increase in operational costs.

Crime Stoppers does not currently receive any funding from government, she said, adding that she would like to see that change.

"For some reason the government thinks we'll always be here," said Rosborough, "And the fact of the matter is I have four months of operating budget [left], and that may not be the case."

Contribution to police efforts

Like Rosborough, Edmonton police officer Sgt. Daryl Mahoney says he’d like to see the government chip in to ensure the survival of Crime Stoppers — and he encourages Edmontonians to ask their local politicians to help out.

He says that Crime Stoppers serves an invaluable role in police operations in Edmonton and beyond.

"It’s an entirely different stream of intelligence than we would normally collect," he said of the anonymity Crime Stoppers allows, which encourages those peripheral to crimes to get in touch without fear of repercussions.

"If we suddenly lost Crime Stoppers," said Mahoney, "we would lose the jilted girlfriend. We would lose the competitor in the drug trade. We would lose somebody who was forced to assist in a body disposal or dumping of a stolen car and it’s eating at their conscience but they can't come forward. We would lose all of that if Crime Stoppers ceased to exist."

"It’s the only anonymous form of talking to the police."

Mahoney also appreciates the multi-jurisdictional nature of Crime Stoppers, which allows for the instantaneous transmission of tips around the world.

He says losing the service would impact police operations ranging from gathering simple warrants to investigating major crimes like homicides.

"As a citizen who lives in Edmonton, I think there’s extreme value in Crime Stoppers," said Mahoney. "As a police officer, I’ve been involved where I’ve had tips from Crime Stoppers that have led to arrests.

"I would hate to see [it] disappear," he added, "We learn things that we wouldn't learn any other way."

Making a difference

Katie Suvanto sits on the board at Crime Stoppers, but that is not why she says it changed her life.

Eight years ago, the organization helped solve a crime for her. She says a man grabbed her while she was walking to work one morning.

"I was very fortunate in that I was able to fight him off — but it changed my life forever."

Suvanto says that Crime Stoppers got in touch with her very soon after she reported the attack.

"They told me that they wanted to do a re-enactment of my story," she said, "and I didn’t even hesitate."

Shortly after the re-enactment aired, the man who attacked her was caught, says Suvanto, adding that he had also instigated similar attacks on 14 other women before he was arrested.

Suvanto says that her life would have been very different, had Crime Stoppers not offered to help tell her story.

"Without it, I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning and move on with my life," she said.

And because she knows first-hand how big a difference the organization can make, Suvanto says she is "terrified" that Crime Stoppers will run out of cash.

"Our job... is to make sure that we raise a ton of money to make sure something like this stays in the community," she said. "We need it."

By the numbers

The anonymous tip line has been in service in the region for about 30 years, and in that time, has helped make 7,000 arrests in Edmonton and northern Alberta.

Rosborough says that Edmonton Crime Stoppers alone takes about 80 perpetrators and $24,000 worth of drugs off the streets every year, in addition to contributing information for up to 30 weapons charges annually.

Rosborough is proud of these statistics, which she says show how vital the service Crime Stoppers truly is.

"We know we make a big different in closing cases."

"We’re the only place you can go to to give information anonymously," said Rosborough. "Anyone can give a tip, they call in totally anonymously — totally safe."

"Edmonton would be a much more dangerous place [without us]."