Witness hotline now lukewarm | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Witness hotline now lukewarm

Understanding somebody knows at least a sliver of information about some crimes, authorities associated with the Secret Witness anonymous tip line are focusing on that sect to boost call numbers.

Last year, 55 calls were made to the tip line established in 1980 and designed to give cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of criminals. It was the lowest call volume in at least six years and well shy of the 2004 mark of 76 calls. Along the same lines, no monetary rewards were given in 2005.

“The lack of calls is a big concern,” said El Dorado County sheriff’s Lt. Randy Peshon, who commands the jail in South Lake Tahoe.

The number of calls to its school line is also down. There were four calls in 2005, as opposed to 28 in 2004 and 31 in 2003.

Along with Peshon, South Lake Tahoe police Sgt. Cam Carmichael, who heads the department’s detectives division, stressed that many people are witnesses or have second-hand knowledge of crimes such as burglaries or grand thefts. Neighbors are a great source of information, they said.

“Somebody knows what’s going on and that’s the person we want to reach,” Peshon said.

“We want to keep the town as clean as we can,” Carmichael added.

Carmichael noted a rash of car burglaries in an area around Push Fitness are the perfect example of crimes that somebody has information about whether it be seeing somebody suspicious or overhearing something.

Burglaries and thefts, such as stolen bikes, really irk community members, Carmichael said.

“It’s the type of crimes that require a tip (to solve),” Carmichael added.

Secret Witness was founded in 1980 with a $10,000 reward given for information on the murder of gas station clerk Richard Swanson – he suffocated after being bound with Duct tape during a robbery.

Swanson’s killer was never found.

Besides calling the number to Secret Witness, which is staffed 24 hours a day and has a bilingual service, tips can be made online. Both the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department and the South Lake Tahoe Police Department have the capability on their Web sites.

“It’s a great tool for our community and unfortunately it’s being underutilized right now. Very underutilized,” Carmichael said.

The number for Secret Witness in South Lake Tahoe is (530) 541-6800.

Secret Witness: Calls on an annual basis

2000 90

2001 61

2002 61

2003 81

2004 76

2005 55

Total: 424

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