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Woman describes collecting reward money from Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers

Taylor Hemness sits down with Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers reward recipient
Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 22, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Earlier this year, I brought you the story of a local woman named Kristi, who says she missed out on potentially thousands of dollars in reward money because she didn't know the difference between calling police, and calling the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards, the police department does not.

VOICE FOR EVERYONE | Share your voice with KSHB 41’s Taylor Hemness

After that story aired, I heard from multiple voices in our community, including a woman who told me she's gotten reward money more than once for her Crime Stoppers tips.

I met with her to hear about her experience, starting with a simple question: does the TIPS Hotline (816-474-TIPS) work?

"It does," she told me. “I think it really does. If she (Kristi) had been give some guidance on how it actually worked, I thought this could really help the next person. That's why I reached out to you."

Her name is Theresa, but she didn’t want to give her last name, or show her face on camera. Instead, she wanted to talk to me about what it means to pay attention.

"I was at my local convenience shop, I walked in, and I heard a great tip," Theresa told me. "Where the crimes are happening, they're happening where people are listening, and then talking."

"It's worth it to listen," I said to her.

“Yes,” Theresa replied. “It’s worth it to listen.”

Theresa has received multiple cash rewards from Crime Stoppers. She's also embraced the idea that caring about your community means trusting that what you know, or what you noticed, could make a massive difference.

"If you know anything,” Theresa told me, “Just that one little piece of evidence, will give you something. “I really would like for (people) to call."

Based on my conversations, there appears to be two big reasons people don't call the TIPS Hotline.

The first involves the actual police investigation.

I spoke to Sgt. Tim Fitzgerald in the KCPD homicide unit. He told me that people think their information isn't good enough.

"Whether it's seeing a vehicle in the area, or someone walking in the area, or someone talking about it after the fact,” Fitzgerald told me. “They may think that it's not important, but they don't know what we know already."

The bottom line is that police want people to call in their tips, not worry about the information.

"There are several cases where a lot of the tools that we use are not going to help that investigation,” Fitzgerald told me. “It's, there are people who know this information out there, and in order for us to proceed further, we need that information."

Fitzgerald continued, "If those people would just come forward with a name, anonymously, then that gives a detective a huge break in the case."

The other big reason people don't call in tips — how can a cash reward be picked up anonymously?

I reported in my first story that only about 40% of those rewards are ever claimed.

Theresa felt the fear behind that stat. She described what it was like the first time she went to pick up a reward.

"I'm gonna be caught, they're gonna know who I am,” Theresa said. “Everyone's gonna come looking for me. I was petrified."

So I asked Theresa to walk me through the process of picking up those cash rewards.

"They're gonna give you another codeword, and they'll give you a location," Theresa told me.

"You pull up to the drive through window, you hand the teller your little password card, and she turns around, looks for your envelope, and you're off and gone with cash," she said.

Theresa continued, "Once I had the first one under my belt, I was like, ‘Oh OK, I believe in the process.’"

Remember, you can call police directly with any information you may have. But you won't remain anonymous when and if you do.

The only way to keep your name private, like Theresa has done multiple times, is to call Crime Stoppers at 816-474-TIPS, or visit their website.