Sometime next year Crimestoppers in Hamilton will be 40 years old. Back in 1982, I was a fairly green news director at CHCH when I was called to the boss’s office. In there when I arrived was then Hamilton Police chief Gordon Torrance and Det. Sgt. Jim Willis. They wanted to know if CHCH would help them launch a new crime prevention program called Crimestoppers. We were expanding our news operation at the time and were making an aggressive move to promote the community so we said ok. Somehow I ended up being the “voice” of the televised re-enactments, a function I would fulfil for the next 14 years until my departure from CH. I remember we wanted a dramatic intro for the re-enactments so we went with Jim Willis to the lockup in the police station and repeatedly taped the sound of a cell door slamming until we got it right. The artwork for the animated title for the videos was actually a stylized image of Sgt. Willis who in a past life, I believe had done some modelling and always wore great suits.
CHCH director Nick Olchowy would produce the segments–something he was doing right up until the COVID pandemic, and something CHCH hope to resume afterwards. . My role for the next 14 years was to go into an audio booth once a week and voice up the script. After Crimestoppers’ initial success in Hamilton we were approached by the Police Services in Halton and Niagara to broadcast their re-enactments as well.
Willis helmed the Crimestoppers program for its first few years and after that, a number of well-known Hamilton Police officers occupied the role. Bob Buck followed Willis as Crimestoppers Coordinator. When I left CHCH I think Ken Leendertse was heading up the program. He went on to become a deputy chief of police and is now a senior manager with the City of Hamilton.
Initially Crimestoppers was essentially a crime tip line. I remember one of the coordinators telling me that a lot of the snitching was done by people who were themselves, shall we say, “known to the police.” As it has matured though, it has branched out into target programs dealing with school crime, elder abuse, human trafficking, hate crime and cyber crime. It operates volunteer programs in fundraising, and has a citizen board of directors.
Citizens invited to join the Crimestoppers board
While Crimestoppers got its beginnings within Hamilton Police Service; Crime Stoppers is NOT a police organization. Crime Stoppers is a partnership of the community, the media and law enforcement all working together to keep the community safe.
Right now Crimestoppers is looking for volunteers to join its board and help it raise the funds it uses to support its community programs.