Crime Stoppers tips pick up as criminals go down
The shooting of four SWAT officers during a drug raid at a south Indianapolis home has put renewed focus on how police gather information to fight crime.
A former narcotics detective tells Eyewitness News he tried to bust the suspected drug house on South State Avenue five years ago, but could never get inside family-run operation.
Why did it take so long for investigators to gather enough evidence to raid the home? Police say new priorities and new technology applied to an old crime fighting tool played a big role.
From the size of the memorial in the front yard and the attention it's getting, deceased drug suspect Andrew Sizemore and his family have more than a few neighborhood friends and supporters. They keep close and, as we found out, keep intruders at a distance.
While our news crew stood across the street Friday, photographing the scene, a group of women marched out the front door, making a bee line across the street and demanding we leave.
"We are on public property, ma'am," our photographer said.
"But you are shooting at my house," shouted a woman identifying herself as Sizemore's sister.
Another woman, a cousin, pleaded, "He was a good guy. A good guy."
But police investigators say Sizemore was a good-sized drug dealer, too, supplying street dealers from the family's home on South State Avenue. For years, Indianapolis detectives couldn't penetrate what they call "a family business."
IMPD Lt. Rick Riddle described how typical drug operations work.
"Only certain people are allowed to come in or certain people are allowed to be associated with and certain people can't come in," he said.
An anonymous call to Crime Stoppers, one of thousands of tips received every year, opened the door, leading to Wednesday night's raid and deadly shootout. Police also seized large amounts of cash, guns and suspected stolen property.
Are these tips getting more priority then they used to?
"Absolutely, yes they are. Hands down," said Crime Stoppers Director Sgt. Steven Dubois.
Emails and calls to Crime Stoppers, he says, are up significantly. Last year, the program consolidated. Tips of all kinds come in to one phone number. Information that used to take days to reach detectives and street cops is now delivered within minutes to computers and smartphones. Some include pictures of suspects and the locations of drug dealing locations.
The software also tracks how investigators followed up with the information. When residents see results, calls increase. Apparently, tipsters like to see their information is being used.
After they see something at the house or the person arrested, they are calling us back, Dubois explained.
"They call us quicker than the police call to say they got an arrest," he said.
The tip line runs 24/7. After Wednesday night's raid, when four SWAT officers were shot and word got out that a Crime Stoppers tip played a key role in the investigation, dozens of new tips were phoned in.
Dubois says more than a third of tipsters don't want the cash reward.
"I really think it's because some people want to place to call and not be known, but just give the information. Some are just trying to do the right thing," he said.