Any motorist who has driven behind a police or sheriff’s vehicle has likely noticed a Crimestoppers bumper sticker asking for anonymous tips and offering rewards. Those stickers are just a small part of the Crimestoppers’ efforts in Sussex County, where the local chapter of the nationwide organization is proud to say they are making a difference.
In 2019 alone, according to Hilary Manser of the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office, tips received through Crimestoppers netted five arrests, including a drug bust which uncovered 30 bags of heroin. Manser said that throughout its history, the Sussex County Crimestoppers group has statistically been one of the most effective, and that last year was decidedly a success.
“Approximately 80 percent of our tips are drug-related and get referred to the Sussex County Narcotics Task Force run by the prosecutor’s office," Manser said. "While it’s not good that we have this drug problem, it’s good that people are keeping an eye out and helping us fight it.”
The Sussex County Crimestoppers was founded in the mid-1980s, an offshoot of the larger Crimestoppers USA, which began in 1975. The local organization is made up of retired business owners, retired local politicians, and other local residents looking to make a difference. The group is governed by a board of directors and liaisons with Sheriff Mike Strada and his captains in the Sheriff’s Office.
Manser said the primary focus of the group is fundraising.
“We meet once a month for about an hour and go over statistics and refocus our fundraising efforts," she said. "All the proceeds go directly to paying out rewards on tips that result in arrests.”
Manser also promises that all tips sent to Crimestoppers absolutely remain anonymous, and she encourages people to get in touch about any suspicious activity.
“People are the eyes and ears of Sussex County,” she said. “When they see unusual things in their neighborhoods or anything that just doesn’t seem right, they just know when something’s off.”
Anyone who reports a tip with Crimestoppers is given an identification number for their tip, and all follow-up surrounding that tip is referred to only by that number; names are never involved. If the tip results in an arrest, a cash reward is paid to the tipster. Tips can be reported on the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office website at http://www.sussexcountysheriff.com/community/crime_stoppers/ or by calling 973-300-CRIME. For more information on becoming a member of Crimestoppers, call Hilary Manser at 973-579-0850, Ext. 2114.