Thomas Baker Jr. was murdered in Flint in October, 2014. The crime remained unsolved, leaving his family heartbroken and frustrated until Crime Stoppers of Flint and Genesee County took on the case and found answers.
“Crime Stoppers stepped in when we were in our crisis and gave my brother and my family a voice to get answers,” says his brother Jamar Baker in a testimonial on the Crime Stoppers website. “They helped answer the mystery that could have added more pain to my brother’s loss. If you see something, say something. It could be the difference between a family finding elements to heal.”
Since it launched in Flint in 2014, Crime Stoppers has helped give many Flint families who lost a loved one to violence closure. It has also provided law enforcement with tips that led to arrests and convictions that closed meth labs, solved robberies and murders and made Flint safer.
Those tips come from the community. They are submitted anonymously by calling 1-800-422-JAIL (5245), submitting a web tip at www.crimestoppersofflint.com or through the mobile app, P3tips.com. Users log in to a secure site, hit “Submit a Tip” and type their tip into the system. They then receive a number with which they can log back in to check on the progress.
In 2017, Crime Stoppers received 504 tips and was able to successfully solve 35 of those crimes.
Crime Stoppers is a nationally known crime prevention organization that encourages citizens to submit anonymous tips when they see a crime being committed, offering rewards – sometimes up to $2,500 – in exchange for doing so.
“We work with law enforcement and even try to bring officers to the meetings we go to. It helps to build trust if law enforcement is there,” says Marc Jaruzel, Crime Stoppers project manager.
The more tips we receive, the better,” he adds.
Jaruzel is new to the job. His position came about earlier this year when Crime Stoppers received an $80,040 grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation to educate, engage, and empower north Flint residents to share information with law enforcement anonymously. The north Flint area is bordered by Carpenter Road, Center Road, Robert T. Longway, and I-475.
One of the Ruth Mott Foundation’s north Flint priorities is safety through community policing and other strategies that help residents build trust with the police, spend more time outside in the community, report crimes more often, and see less crime in the neighborhood.
Jaruzel says the grant outlines specific goals to integrate the work Crime Stoppers does.
To expand its reach in the community in 2018 Crime Stoppers will:
- Issue eight public service announcements, which will include a family member coming in to comment, and are highlighted on local television stations and social media sites
- Strategically place 24 billboards – or two per month – with either general information or on unsolved cases in high-traffic areas in order to reach the largest population possible
- Hold five press conferences highlighting unsolved crimes that will be featured on television and social media outlets
- Hold 12 community meetings hosted by local churches organizations, schools, and neighborhood associations and attended by McGruff the Crime Dog and local law enforcement agencies
- Create marketing materials, such as decals and magnets
- Create and distribute bilingual Crime Stoppers informational handouts
- Post information on all relevant social media channels
“We’ll put the incident on Facebook as many times as they want, or print posters if they’d like us to,” says Jaruzel. “We’re here to help.”
There are challenges, however, to what he does.
Trying to get a high quality of engagement with the community and getting the message out can be difficult.
“It’s easy to post ads but getting a solid turnout at some of our meetings and being able to measure results afterwards has been hard,” Jaruzel says.
Part of his job is to meet with local organizations to see what works best for them, especially churches like Grace Community Christian Fellowship, and the Eastside Coalition.
Crime Stoppers will also hold meetings at institutions like the Hispanic Tech Center on the northeast side, a community technology center that has a food bank in the basement.
The overarching goal is to give the community a voice and get residents involved in cleaning up crime by giving them an avenue to report crimes while remaining anonymous and without the fear of reprisal.
Each case of unsolved crime comes from local detectives, and tips that come in from the community must be run by law enforcement – even if a detective hasn’t approached them about it – so Crime Stoppers knows it’s accurate.
“Some might be unfounded, but we leave that up to law enforcement,” Jaruzel says. “If it’s not helpful to them, they let us know.”
If law enforcement says a tip is helpful, the tipster can receive a reward up to $2,500, and sometimes more, if the family of a victim decides to contribute funds. The Crime Stoppers Board of Directors goes through a process to determine how much will be given for each tip.
“They have standards and try to be pretty scrupulous,” says Jaruzel. Rewards are given out once a month.
Working at Crime Stoppers is Jaruzel’s first job after graduating from Ferris State University. The 23-year-old couldn’t be more thrilled with the experience and his ability to work with the community and make a difference.
The neighborhoods have their problems, he says, but everyone is trying. “The block clubs are amazing, the residents are great. It’s definitely getting better.”
For more information, visit crimestoppersofflint.com.