LAS CRUCES >> Don't say your name.

Don't reveal where you live.

They only want tips that lead to arrests, and Las Cruces Crime Stoppers administrators will pay for those gems of information.

The Las Cruces-based nonprofit, one of the first in what is now a worldwide network, plays a critical role in local law enforcement, officials say, funneling anonymous tips to investigators and reward money to those providing reliable clues.

That's how the Las Cruces Police Department made an arrest in last month's hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist on Valley Drive. Three weeks after Terence Havey died in an El Paso hospital from massive head injuries, LCPD received a long-awaited tip.

Authorities on Sept. 12 made an arrest in that case -- 35 years, nearly to the day, that Las Cruces Crime Stoppers filed its bylaws with the New Mexico Secretary of State, starting what has been a thriving journey.

"The key to its success ... is bringing in people with the same philosophy and ambition," said 3rd Judicial District Chief Judge Doug Driggers, a founding member who was part of the local Crime Stoppers board until he became a judge in 2003. "They have to be there because they believe in it and they're wanting to improve the community."

And they must be discreet: Crime Stoppers is serious about anonymity.


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If you call with a tip and identify yourself, said the Las Cruces Crime Stoppers chair, you are "disqualified" from receiving any possible cash reward and told to take your information to police.

The local Crime Stoppers chair, a feisty local business owner, asked the Sun-News not to use her name because, in more than 20 years with the nonprofit, she has received threats for her outsider role in solving crimes.

"We're providing an anonymous way for people to do the right thing without any repercussions," she said. "That's the advantage of the program."

Tips come via phone calls, texts and emails, she said.

Once scrubbed to removing any data that could identify the caller, Crime Stoppers tips are collected and reviewed by LCPD Det. Gary Pederson, who serves as the Crime Stoppers coordinator atop his normal duties. Driggers called that officer the "lynchpin" of Crime Stoppers.

Sometimes the tips spur an arrest, even in murder cases. Often they do not.

More than 20 tips poured in to Crime Stoppers in the days after last month's fatal hit-and-run, LCPD spokesman Dan Trujillo said.

LCPD officials did not provide statistics about the local Crime Stoppers program. El Paso's Crime Stoppers program made arrests in about 5 percent of the calls its received in June, according to the most recent information available. Nationally, Crime Stoppers organizations have doled out nearly $100 million in reward money.

Las Cruces Crime Stoppers' 13 volunteer board members meet monthly to discuss financial issues -- how to spend and raise money, plus the occasional vote on new members, and discussing with law enforcement what reward is available and how much a tipster's information is worth.

Tips can range from $100 to $2,000, the chair said.

Surprisingly, most people don't collect their Crime Stoppers rewards.

The chair estimates about 75 percent of eligible tipsters don't collect their rewards.

"They're doing it not for money, but so they can do the right thing and 1) not be involved with the police investigation and 2) have no potential repercussions."

The 13 board members came to the most recent meeting from a variety of occupations. One woman works at a local bank. Another used to work at a TV station. One man is in construction. The board member sitting next to him is well known in the Las Cruces sports community.

The chair asked that they not be identified, simply to protect them. One board member has served for nine years and loves it, but said he won't include it on his resume because of safety concerns.

Driggers and the current chair both said diversity among board members has been critical to the success of Las Cruces Crime Stoppers.

As with other nonprofits, board members take advantage of their unique contacts and resources to benefit Crime Stoppers.

Local Crime Stoppers founders only asked Driggers to join, he assumed at the time, because they needed the services of a lawyer. He drafted the documents to incorporate Las Cruces Crime Stoppers in 1978. It was the third organization in the nation, after similar ventures in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Driggers stayed 25 years.

During his time there, Driggers said, Crime Stoppers received help from people all over the community. Years ago, he said, local filmmaker Mark Medoff helped by producing TV re-enactments of key crimes.

Las Cruces Crime Stoppers also provided help, Driggers said, lending its learned expertise to people wanting to start such organizations in other communities.

Added Driggers: "Without the board fund raising and without absolutely fabulous cooperation from law enforcement, you don't survive."

James Staley may be reached at 575-541-5476.