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Beacon Senior News

The crime, the call and the conviction: Seniors integral in stopping crime in Montrose County

Jul 05, 2018 05:06AM ● By Bob Cox

Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers President John W. Nelson and Vice President Doug Glaspell.

Almost any criminal investigator will tell you that the secret to solving most crimes is having someone tell who did it. That one phone call, email or personal contact often provides the missing piece of information that leads to getting dangerous criminals off the streets or solving other major crimes.

Among the tools lauded by law enforcement are those that provide a forum for the average citizen to give information without revealing their identity. The Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers (MRCS) and Operation Game Thief (OGT) programs allow citizens to do just that.

See something? Say something

The Montrose Area Crime Stoppers was first started in the early 1980s, but slowly faded away until it was officially dissolved in 2013.

About four years ago, the Montrose region witnessed a phoenix of sorts when a new and vibrant organization emerged from the ashes. Under the leadership of John W. Nelson, the new effort resulted in a 501(C)(3) corporation under a new name.

According to the Uniform Crime Reports, the City of Montrose and Montrose County have had significant increases in some crime categories. Probably the most disturbing statistic for the city is motor vehicle thefts, which increased from 59 in 2016 to 117 in 2017. Montrose County Sheriff’s report shows a 65 percent rise in the same category. Those reports also show that the number of arrests has increased, which is where MRCS shines brightest.

Crime Stoppers officers

Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers President John W. Nelson and Vice President Doug Glaspell.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important to you as you get older other than health care and personal safety,” said Nelson, 76, adding that most of the organization’s board members are seniors.

Getting information on crime and criminals is not always easy, and for a myriad of reasons, people sometimes don’t want everyone to know that they are providing such information. Under the Crime Stoppers umbrella, those people can remain anonymous.

Informants are also eligible to receive a cash reward if their tip results in an arrest.

The internet, email and social media have greatly enhanced the efficiency of gathering information and the MRCS has been very successful in channeling that information to local law enforcement authorities.

“We know we have been helped,” said Nelson. “We have authorized $8,100 in payouts this year. While not all of that has been claimed, it shows just how active the program has been.”

Montrose County Undersheriff Adam Murdy agreed.

“By far, the best information we get through Crime Stoppers is related to fugitives,” he said.

Murdy also opines that many of the crimes, including domestic violence, burglary and theft, are often the result of a pervasive drug abuse problem, which he thinks Crime Stoppers is having more of an impact on.

Nelson encouraged citizens to get involved in preventing or stopping crime by keeping their eyes open, starting a neighborhood watch program and calling Crime Stoppers to turn in a crook or give information on a crime. They can also help support the program, which is funded entirely by donations.

MRCS routinely posts a list of fugitives, complete with photographs, online at www.montroseregionalcrimestoppers.com. If you have information about these individuals or another crime, call MRCS at 249-8500.

Crime Stoppers has also teamed up with www.p3tips.com, a crime tip software that provides global service for those wanting to report information on a crime or fugitive. The app can be downloaded on any mobile device. When a tip is submitted, it’s immediately forwarded to the member Crime Stopper organization, which then disseminates the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife volunteers trap turkeys for relocation.

Putting a stop to poaching

Operation Game Thief is another call-in tip program that relates directly with poaching wildlife. Headed up by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), it has been one of the most successful informant tip programs in the country. There are similar programs in 49 states.

“Our best poaching cases come from the public through Operation Game Thief,” said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager for CPW’s Montrose office.

By some estimates, poachers kill nearly as many animals as legitimate hunters, and often they’re the ones responsible for the killing of non-game and endangered animals as well.

Poaching is rampant, even in Montrose. DelPiccolo said crimes runs the whole gamut, from those that are mild or unintentional to commercial operations that use highly sophisticated equipment.

“We’re a hunting agency. We don’t want to paint a horrible picture of hunters, but we want to very much distinguish between hunters and poachers,” DelPiccolo said.

Volunteers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife plant trees and shrubs at Billy Creek State Wildlife Area.

Over the years the OGT information has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, some of which are waived in return for a donation made to the program. The incentive-based donations, according to DelPiccolo, largely fund the program, although other donations are routinely received. He said the Montrose office received 30 beneficial referrals from the program in 2017.

DelPiccolo credits the success of OGT and many other CPW programs to its dedicated volunteers, who are mostly retirees.

“I can’t overstate how much we appreciate the volunteers and their contribution to all the different things they do for us,” he said. “We value their support as well because once they become part of the team, whether it’s being on the OGT board or being a volunteer at a fishing clinic, we know that those folks are supporting us in public. They’re putting our message out there.”

DelPiccolo said volunteers play an integral role in preventing poaching by promoting OGT at fairs and expos and educating citizens on making a call when they think someone might be poaching.

“Years ago, when we re-introduced moose to the Grand Mesa…before the hunting season, they would go and visit the hunting camps and talk to the folks and hand out a leaflet educating them that there were now moose on the Grand Mesa and to be more careful of their shot,” he said. “I think that was really successful. We’ve had very few moose killed on the Grand Mesa, especially compared to other areas.”

People with information about poaching can call 1-877-COLO-OGT (1-877-265-6648), or email [email protected]. Links are also provided at www.cpw.state.co.us. Callers receive a code number and their identity remains anonymous.

Citizens involved in both organizations agree that without the cooperation and involvement of the public at-large, neither program would be successful. One call may be all that is needed to lead to apprehension and conviction.

Potential poacher? What to look for and what to report

From cpw.state.co.us

Obvious signs of poaching include hunting out of season, hunting at night using spotlights, and taking more than the legal limit. The purchase of resident licenses by non-residents constitutes another violation that impacts wildlife management. If you think someone might be poaching, provide as much information as you can. Essential information includes:

  • The violation date and time
  • Location of the incident (as exact as possible)
  • A description of the violation: number of shots heard, type of weapon, etc.
  • The number of suspects, names and/or identifying features such as age, height, hair color, clothes, etc.
  • Vehicle description including type, year, color and license number
  • If you know how a poached animal is being transported, or where it is being stored, tell us.
  • Include any other information you think may be pertinent to the case as soon as possible.