Amy Southards, new crimestoppers coordinator, ready for the challenge

Nov. 14, 2012 @ 05:09 PM

There is a new voice on the other end of the phone for callers to High Point’s crime tips line.
Amy Southards was appointed High Point Crimestoppers coordinator last month. High Point Police Department officials decided to make the coordinator’s post a full-time position after leaving it vacant for an extended period and using various police personnel to temporarily man the program, which offers cash rewards to callers who provide information that leads to an arrest, seizure of illegal drugs or stolen property, or otherwise helps solve a crime.
Southards, who started the job Oct. 29, is a 13-year veteran of the department.
She previously worked as a police information technician, monitoring state and federal crime information databases, processing warrants and subpoenas and providing officers with information to assist them in their investigations.
Southards said her background and experience have helped her transition into her new job and that she’s been concentrating on building relationships with the community so that more tips are generated.
She said crimestoppers calls dropped significantly following the departure of former coordinator Robyn Lee.
“I’m trying to build those ties to where folks trust me,” said Southards. “They trusted Robyn. They knew her. They knew her voice. If they don’t call, I don’t have much I can do.”
There were 28 crimestoppers calls over Southards’ first 15 days on the job. She forwards tips to the appropriate police personnel for investigation. She said many of the calls of late have been in reference to copper thieves, while others are drug-related. Several recent tips came to school resource officers and concerned drugs or weapons on campuses, she said. Some tips also concern wanted persons.
She said crimestoppers callers sometimes provide police critical information that can lead to a break in a case when investigators have little else to go on.
This happened in two recent cases. In one, a caller identified a man suspected of failing to appear in court on cocaine-trafficking charges from 2002 whose photo was recently displayed to the public. The caller provided a location for the suspect that police wouldn’t have otherwise known about, Southards said.
The other case was an arson in which a tipster provided fire investigators with suspect information when they had no other evidence, she said.
The crimestoppers board of directors decides the amount of rewards for successful tips. Southards said typical amounts are $50 for a misdemeanor case and $75 for a felony, although the board sometimes increases reward amounts based on the significance of a case. Tipsters are assigned a secret code to claim their reward, preserving their anonymity throughout the process.
Southards’ position is funded in the police department budget, but crimestoppers rewards are paid for entirely with donations from the community. A nonprofit organization, crimestoppers hosts a fundraiser motorcycle ride each year, and Southards said plans are in the works for another benefit in February which will feature food and musical entertainment by police officers.
Southards said she hopes that the more funds that are donated, the more the profile of the organization will be raised as a critical crime-fighting resource.
“There are people who have been calling for years,” she said. “They know what’s going on in the community. The anonymity is obviously the key thing.”
pkimbrough@hpe.com 888-3531