Launched in 1988 by Lord Ashcroft, Crimestoppers UK was founded in the wake of the murder of Pc Keith Blakelock during the Tottenham riots. Initially called the Community Action Trust (CAT), the charity was intended as a three-way partnership between the business community, the police and the media
The purpose was to encourage members of the public with information on criminal activity to come forward anonymously, without the fear of their identity being revealed.
Since its launch, Crimestoppers UK has received more than 1.7 million pieces of useful information which has led to over 136,000 arrests, more than £135 million of stolen goods being recovered and more than £330 million of drugs being seized.
The charity works closely with police forces across the UK and law enforcement organisations, including the National Crime Agency (formally Serious Organised Crime Agency).
Several large national campaigns have been launched in the charity’s 25 years, with crimes such as human trafficking, cannabis cultivation and fraud all receiving significant publicity and crucial information from the public.
However, it is the independence from the police and law enforcement that is a unique selling point. This independence creates trust amongst the public, which makes the charity’s work within local communities across the country, much easier.
The organisation’s regional staff and network of more than 500 volunteers are integral to the success of Crimestoppers, as they engage with local communities to find out about the crimes and issues affecting them and work hard to tackle crime on a local level.
Issues tackled at a local level include metal theft, domestic violence and the theft of Asian gold, with pilot campaigns rolled out to other parts of the country on the back of their success.
In 2005, Crimestoppers launched Most Wanted, an online gallery allowing the public to view photographs and read descriptions of those wanted by law enforcement in their local area. Since the launch, more than 3,700 individuals featured on Most Wanted have been arrested and charged, which equates to a success rate of almost 25 per cent.
Recently, the 10,000th appeal was uploaded to the Most Wanted section of the Crimestoppers’ website, which is a huge milestone and an indication of the trust law enforcement has in the forum.
Another milestone was the launch of Fearless in 2010, which is the charity’s youth service for 11-16 year olds. Fearless aims to educate and inform youngsters about crime and encourage them to pass on information anonymously.
The charity has volunteers that promote the work of Fearless, while staff have an ongoing project titled ‘Train the Trainer’, which sees them train teachers, youth workers and sports coaches on Fearless, which allows those trained to then deliver the programme to the youngsters they interact with. This has been hugely successful, with around 600 trained individuals now delivering the work of Fearless.
For the last seven years, Crimestoppers has also been at the forefront of locating UK fugitives, with the launch of Operation Captura in 2006 which sought individuals wanted for serious crimes committed in the UK, who are believed to be hiding in Spain. Working with SOCA and the Spanish authorities, Operation Captura has seen 53 out of 63 individuals located.
This has included wanted individuals being arrested on the day of launch, with others being located after years of being on the run. Since then similar campaigns have been launched in the Netherlands and Cyprus.
Operation Return launched in 2010 in Amsterdam and has so far seen six wanted criminals arrested from the 12 appeals published.
In 2012, a further fugitive campaign, launched in Nicosia, Cyprus, saw eight men and one woman on a list of wanted individuals on the island as part of Operation Zygos. Within three weeks, three of the fugitives had been caught, with two of them voluntarily handing themselves into Cypriot authorities following the launch of the campaign.
Lord Ashcroft continues to chair the Board of Trustees of Crimestoppers and to donate funds to the charity.
If you are interested in becoming a Crimestoppers volunteer, visit the charity’s volunteering section.
If you would like to pass on information about crime anonymously, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via the charity’s website.