A good tip led to last week’s arrest of two men and a woman who police said robbed four service stations between October and November. Richmond County authorities say that sort of information is key to crimefighting.
“A great majority of our leads come from those sources,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles, adding that the Criminal Investigation Division receives a “significant” number of tips.
“Obviously, a lot of times when people commit crimes, they involve other people or tell other people. We try to appeal to the people who have that information second- or thirdhand.”
In the service station robberies, investigators knew that when they received their tip, the person had inside information. The tip led to the arrests of Terrell Johnson and Steve Cross, who are accused of entering with a rifle and holding clerks at gunpoint while emptying the registers. Asia Lewis was charged as an accomplice in one of the robberies.
“There was little doubt to the validity (of the tip) because there were things they couldn’t have known otherwise,” Peebles said.
It’s one of the reasons investigators remain tight-lipped in the aftermath of a crime – to more easily identify tipsters with inside information.
The narcotics division receives 10 to 15 tips every day, Sgt. Allan Rollins said.
The division gets a lot of general tips about homes with people coming in and out at all hours, but sometimes it receives more detailed information complete with names, tag numbers and the specific drugs being dealt.
“Any time the public gives us information, we’re going to follow up on it,” Rollins said. “It may not seem like we’ve done a whole lot, but sometimes, you may not see us.”
The sheriff’s office offers rewards in all open cases, but in many cases, tipsters don’t ask for anything in exchange.
The main difficulty investigators have is convincing tipsters their information is confidential when they come forward. The phrase “snitches get stitches” is often heard
from someone struggling with whether to talk.
“A lot of times, people think there’s a database of all the people who provide information to us. That couldn’t be more false,” Peebles said.
Criminals often tell those around them that they know a police officer and have a list of informants to intimidate anyone who might blab. Actually, there are no records at all. Peebles said the sheriff’s office
goes to great lengths to keep sources anonymous.
There isn’t a record of the number of tips received or any computer files that list sources. Investigators also do not share a source’s personal information with co-workers.
The only records that are kept are when rewards are made. Those records are strictly for auditing purposes and are not computerized.
Rewards come from asset forfeiture, and the amount depends on the type of crime and quality of information.