– Twenty-five years after Victoria launched Australia’s first Crime Stoppers program, the results speak for themselves.
Information provided by over 550,000 callers to Crime Stoppers since November 9th, 1987, has led to nearly 14,000 arrests, almost 60,000 criminal charges and the seizure of stolen property and illicit drugs worth more than $150 million.
That sort of record is something to be proud of, but the fact that its been achieved without the sort of funding support this spectacularly successful community crime fighting operation deserves is not.
Both the corporate sector and the State Government have failed to deliver the financial backing that would make Crime Stoppers even more effective and remove uncertainty about its future.
Successive governments have ignored pleas for recurrent funding from the most obvious, logical and sensible source imaginable – criminals themselves, in the form of confiscated criminal assets.
The Coalition Government’s refusal to provide a small slice of the proceeds of crime to fund Crime Stoppers – rather than tuck it away in consolidated revenue – is even more frustrating when you consider the Liberal Party’s policy in the 2006 state election campaign.
Then, under the banner of the party’s plan for safe homes and safe streets, the Liberals unequivocally promised that for the next four years if elected they would “ensure the highly successful Crime Stoppers program continues with sustainable funding from the sale of confiscated criminal assets”.
Federal Liberal leader Tony Abbott apparently still subscribes to the logic and value of such a policy.
While promising last month that a Coalition Government would spend $50 million on new CCTV cameras in crime hot-spots, Abbott said they would be funded from the proceeds of crime and made it clear he believed that “money from criminals should be spent fighting crime”.
Crime Stoppers is not an expensive operation.
It can survive on $300,000 a year, but needs $500,000 to enable the sort of marketing that is known to boost both response and results.
Its total corporate sponsorship last year was $130,000.
The amount of money seized from criminals by federal and state authorities continues to rise and makes the amount needed by Crime Stoppers look like small change.
Victoria’s Office of Public Prosecutions recently reported the seizure of cash and property worth $19.8 million during 2011-12, and this year’s haul is likely to be even higher.
The national Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, led by the Australian Federal Police, restrained cash, property, jewellery, cars and boats worth $97.4 million.
The corporate community’s failure to embrace Crime Stoppers as a cause worth supporting is just as disappointing and frustrating as the Government’s refusal to fund it from the proceeds of crime.
The community board of Crime Stoppers Victoria, a not-for-profit company, has struggled for well over a decade to secure recurrent funding to meet its operational costs and pay for promotion and marketing campaigns.
In 2000, directors were within weeks of having to declare CSV insolvent and appoint an administrator after more than 100 companies were unsuccessfully asked for help.
After years of trying and failing to attract sufficient long-term sponsorship itself, the board of CSV last year employed professionals to do the job.
The money to pay them came from a special funding grant from the previous government, which agreed a professional funding search would be a good investment if it removed the need to go back to government with a begging bowl in future.
After more than 12 months, dozens of approaches to the corporate sector and numerous applications to philanthropic trusts and foundations, not one dollar was raised for Crime Stoppers.
It’s a disgrace that corporates who spend millions on sponsorship of sport won’t spend a dollar to support such a worthy cause.
It’s an indictment of the banking, insurance and security industries – and many others with a vested interest in fighting crime – that the second biggest corporate supporter of Crime Stoppers is a suburban church.
Crime victim George Halvagis donated $14,000 raised by his family and friends at a dinner dance at their Greek community church last year, and the church has continued to donate this year.
The program’s importance is a conduit and filtering process during high-profile investigations was again shown during the recent case of murdered Brunswick woman Jill Meagher, when Crime Stoppers received 1600 calls and online reports in four days.
Crime Stoppers is an essential service and should be treated as such.
Police, the media and the community have all played their part in making it one of this state’s success stories.
It’s time the Baillieu Government does the same – Geoff Wilkinson
It seems Crime Stoppers may have a happy birthday after all. Late yesterday a spokesman for the Premier announced an immediate allocation of $200,000 and an in-principle commitment to recurrent funding to be addressed in the next State Budget. He said the Government was a bug supporter of the program