This article originally appeared in the Friday July 12, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
Commissioners for the city of Alton approved the creation of a local crime stoppers program at their latest meeting.
On Tuesday, city commissioners met and named five local individuals to be appointed to the board of the Alton Crime Stoppers Program which will go into effect by next month, Alton police Chief Jonathan B. Flores said.
“We are working on finalizing our phone line until the program is ready to go,” Flores said. “The board is already set up, city commissioners have approved the formation of the program and we’re very excited for it. It’s a tool for us to utilize to help deter criminals in our city, the overall goal is for us to protect the quality of life of everyone residing here.”
The crime stoppers program is an organization independent from the city that raises funds through sponsors and fundraisers to provide rewards for citizens anonymously reporting information on a crime in the area.
The five people that were appointed to the board included two city employees- Samm Mercado and Janie Gaitan, two local police dispatchers-Vicky Rueda and Nidia Ybarra, and local citizen Ariel Gonzalez.
Before city commissioners approved the formation of the city crime stoppers program, City Manager Jeff Underwood included an addendum to the resolution that let the city have control of the name.
“If the Alton commission decides at any time that they don’t like the direction or the way their name is being used in the program, they can pull their name from the program and detach themselves from it,” Underwood said, telling commissioners that the addendum was created over concerns based on “lessons we’ve learned via what other cities have experienced.”
Though Underwood didn’t elaborate on his comment, the city of Palmview-which Alton entered in an agreement with for ambulance services last spring-is in the process of attempting to overhaul the Palmview Crime Stoppers Program.
During a Palmview city council meeting last March, council members voted to begin the process of looking into creating a new Palmview Crime Stoppers Program following a year-long standoff between both organizations after the city accused the program of several management issues and a lack of transparency.
Since the Palmview Crime Stoppers Program doesn’t have an agreement with the city, the program is not obligated to report to council members and remains independent from them, Palmview Crime Stoppers Board Member Arnaldo Nacianceno said last March.
“Our concern is that if we want to prevent what happened in other cities, we need to find a way to have an agreement to where the city would be in control,” Underwood said. “It’s the Alton Crime Stoppers Program so we want to make sure that anything the city is attached to is something we have some control over what’s happening with it and look at their books and audits to make sure these funds are being used for their intended purposes.”
Though the crime rate in the city of Alton is low, Flores said the crime stoppers program is still an important tool for any city to have.
“You see crime stoppers programs all over the nation and they are successful,” Flores said. “We want to bring that to the city of Alton and make our agency more effective to deter the criminal elements that seek to disrupt and destroy the quality of life we work so hard to provide to the community. The step we took tonight works toward that goal of making sure any issues faced by any crime stoppers program in the country doesn’t happen in Alton.”