Nashville’s crime tip service has long relied on anonymous callers — but a recent upgrade means that eyewitness photos, videos and recordings can now be passed to police detectives.
Nashville Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit that supports Metro police, says the tech advance is admittedly overdue, but meant to tap into the ubiquity of evidence captured on cellphones.
Already, the group collects and provides police with dozens of tips per week. Last year’s count was nearly 4,500, which helped solve 170 cases.
Their return promise to tipsters is the possibility of cash reward — and strict anonymity.
“Particularly in some neighborhoods where crime is rampant, you may know the people; it may be your neighbors that are doing it, or even relatives, and you don’t want to be labeled a snitch and then get retaliated against,” said Liz Parrott, chairwoman of the nonprofit.
She notes that tip-providers can also keep some distance from police.
“Law enforcement may not have the best reputation, or people are fearful,” she said. “It’s a way to bridge that gap and a way to connect them to police and the public.”
While she says the calls have been effective — aiding 217 homicide investigations in the group’s 35-year history — Crime Stoppers also wants to tap into the potentially richer trove of witness photos and videos.
“In the world of technology, everybody has their phones out and usually is shooting video before even calling the police,” Parrott said. “It adds yet another layer to our capabilities.”
She said it took a couple of years, but the group has finally invested in encryption that protects identities and allows files to be transmitted through nashvillecrimestoppers.com.
“I think it’s going to move the needle fairly far … the thing with the phones and videos and pictures is: that can pick up stuff as an eyewitness right there … and it’s going to give a better, clearer starting point.”
The first case that police hope will benefit is an unsolved homicide from the night of Aug. 26, when 53-year-old Thomas James Nevills was fatally clubbed in the head outside the One Stop Market near The Nations.
Grainy surveillance footage shows witnesses were recording what happened up close. They haven’t come forward, but now have a new in-road, if they so choose.
Crime Stoppers reports that it has given out $566,700 in rewards since its founding. During that time, citizen tips through 615-74-CRIME haved aided in a wide array of investigations, from the confiscation of more than $8 million in illegal drugs to the seizure of 143 guns from inside schools.