Countywide : Apartments Launch Crime Tip Program

Apartment residents can now report criminal activity without fear of retaliation, and may be rewarded for it because of a program launched by apartment owners around the county and endorsed by county officials.

The We Tip Program provides a 24-hour hot line that residents can call to report any criminal activity without revealing their identity. If the information results in an arrest or conviction, the informant--who is assigned an identification code by the hot line--may receive a reward of up to $1,000.

Members of the Apartment Assn. of Orange County unveiled the program Wednesday at a Tustin neighborhood that was often the site of gang and drug activities.

County Supervisors Gaddi H. Vasquez and Roger R. Stanton lauded the program as another tool in fighting crime and an indication of the community's increasing awareness to support law enforcement agencies.

County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi called it an "arsenal" that will help in the effort to retake neighborhoods from gangs and drug pushers.

Under the program, members of the apartment association will post signs on their properties displaying the We Tip hot-line number: (800) 581-1400. The signs will send a message to drug dealers, gang members and vandals that crime will not be tolerated on the property, association officials aid.

Informants will not talk directly to the police but to trained operators who will screen the calls and then notify the appropriate law enforcement agency.

The operators will be provided by We Tip, a nonprofit agency founded in 1972 by an Ontario couple, Bill and Miriam Brownell. The agency operates an anonymous tip program in 108 cities in six counties in California.

Several Orange County cities, including Yorba Linda, San Clemente and Santa Ana, have signed up for the program, Miriam Brownell said. Brownell, 56, said she and her husband began the anonymous tip program because of increasing drug trafficking in their neighborhood.

Cities pay 50 cents per resident for the service while school districts and other clients pay flat fees, Brownell said. The apartment owners will pay about $3,000 a year, she said.

Byron T. Schenn, president of the Apartment Assn. of Orange County, said apartment owners and residents lose thousands of dollars each year. But often, apartment managers and residents do not report the crime because of fear or reprisals.

Capt. Fred Wakefield of the Tustin Police Department said the program is an example of teamwork between police and the community.

"We need all the help we can get," Wakefield said. "We cannot do this job by ourselves."

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