Within the first 24 hours after the announced launch of a new reward program, Crime Stoppers Buffalo reported fielding dozens of calls from citizens providing tips about alleged illegal opioid distribution.
On Monday, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn led a news conference announcing the start of a partnership with Crime Stoppers Buffalo, providing $25,000 from criminal asset seizures to fund the reward program. Citizens whose information leads to the arrest and conviction of someone illegally dealing opioids may receive a reward of up to $2,500.
"In the last 24 hours since we had the press conference, we've had numerous calls, over 70, 80 calls," said Crime Stoppers chairman Kevin Hoffman. "Also, people submitting some information by our web page."
Some, Hoffman said, have offered to waive the reward money, expressing a simple interest in justice. WBFO asked him if there seems to be less trepidation to call and report alleged opioid dealers, compared to other crime suspects.
"When something like this happens, whether it happens to yourself, to a loved one, child, parent, they're always looking for holding someone accountable," Hoffman said. "It's a disease, once you get hooked on to the opiates. But there are individuals out there, obvious selling and giving and distributing the opiates."
Leaders at Monday's news conference warned that although Erie County reported a decrease in opioid-related fatalities in 2017, even those who have completed drug treatment remain at risk by dealers who seek to keep their customers.
When asked how many of these calls were forwarded to the Erie County Sheriff's Office, a spokesman for that agency would only say that they have received multiple referrals.
Hoffman recommends those who wish to provide tips first consult their guidelines. The reason, he explained, is because people need to know what information is truly useful to the police who then investigate.
"As police officers, we know what we need but the public doesn't always know what we need." he said. "Even if someone calls and says someone's dealing on the corner, that's not really enough to make an action. If they see the tip guide, it'll give them some pointers as to things that we'd like to see them try to gather. Maybe they have all that info but just don't know to give it."