Friday, July 24, 2009

Macomb sheriff works with Crime Stoppers on tip sheets

Charles E. Ramirez / The Detroit News

Mount Clemens -- It looks like something you'd leave on the doorknob of a hotel room, but local authorities are hoping a simple placard will help homeowners combat crime in their neighborhood.
The idea is the brainchild of Crime Stoppers of Michigan, which is touting the use of door hangers to call on homeowners to report information about neighborhood break-ins.
On Thursday, the group's president was joined by Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel and Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith to launch a public campaign that uses the door hangers to combat burglaries. The campaign comes at a time when home invasions and burglaries are on the rise across the nation and Metro Detroit, authorities said.
In the city of Sterling Heights, for example, the number of burglaries jumped from 390 in 2007 to 467 in 2008, a rise of 19.7 percent, according to FBI statistics.
"Trying to make our communities safer, this is what it's all about," said John Broad, Crime Stoppers' president.
The group has used door hangers in the past, but for specific crimes such as murder or rape. Crime Stoppers plans to make the new door hangers related to burglaries available to law enforcement agencies across southeastern Michigan, Broad said.
On the front, the notices simply read: "Crime Stoppers. Stay Anonymous ... Cash rewards up to $1,000 ...If you have information about a serious crime... 1 (800) SPEAK UP." On the back, they ask residents to call the tip line and include information about a burglary or other crime.
Police officers will hang the signs on the homes in neighborhoods that recently had a break-in, Broad said. The hangers are meant for residents who aren't at home while police are canvassing an area, officials said.
The group chose to announce the program's launch today at a media conference with Hackel and Smith because the two county agencies vigorously support and are participating in it, Broad also said.
The door hangers are one way law enforcement agencies can enlist the aid of the public to find the criminals behind home invasions -- something becoming more critical as police departments are seeing their financial resources shrink, Hackel said.
"We're enlisting the (help of) the public now more than ever," he said. "We need more engaged response from the public ... so we're trying to reach out to those neighbors of homes that have been broken into, let them know that something happened and hoping they'll come forward with any information about things they might have seen."
Hackel and Smith also donated a total of $5,000 on behalf of their offices to Crime Stoppers. The group will use money, which came from forfeiture funds, to support the rewards it gives out if information it receives results in an arrest.
"There are dwindling resources for public safety and we're certainly seeing that in Macomb County," Smith said. "As a result, law enforcement and the Prosecutor's Office need all the eyes and ears on the street that we can get. Crime Stoppers is the perfect way to get people to assist with an investigation without becoming involved."