Secret Witness: 25 years of crime-solving
It didn’t take long for Secret Witness to catch on when private citizens joined with law enforcement officers in December 1987 to create the community crime-solving program.
The first payment was made a few months later when a Secret Witness tip helped solve the case of a stolen moped at Douglas High School.
More than $43,000 and 25 years later, Secret Witness is still going strong.
This week, Secret Witness was offering a $250 reward for information on an all-terrain vehicle stolen from a Gardnerville neighborhood.
In between there have been payouts for information in 125 cases from graffiti to attempted murder.
Douglas Sheriff’s Capt. John Milby is the president of the 12-member board of directors for Secret Witness.
“It’s our 25th anniversary in December, and we want to remind the community we’re here,” Milby said.
Milby said Secret Witness keeps its promise that tipsters can remain anonymous. But, he said, many callers aren’t interested in a reward.
“A lot of callers to Secret Witness just want to share information,” he said. “Very rarely are they motivated by the money. They just call in with tips.”
He estimated three-to-five calls come in monthly to the Secret Witness number which is answered by Douglas County dispatch.
“That’s one aspect of the many different agencies which make the program successful,” Milby said.
Each call is assigned to an investigator for follow-up.
The rewards are paid out upon arrest of the suspect.
“What we look for is getting information and developing probable cause to make an arrest,” Milby said.
He said it’s hard to speculate whether some cases would be solved without Secret Witness tips.
Recently, a Secret Witness tip led to the arrest and prosecution of two men in the burglary of two homes on Wildrose in Minden.
“In the instance of the Wildrose burglaries, timeliness was of the essence, especially to be able to recover some of the property,” Milby said.
And there are cases, like the 2008 murder of Ben Oxley, which drew a Secret Witness reward of more than $30,000 that was never collected.
Three individuals made donations of $10,000 each in an effort to arrest the murderer of the 36-year-old Johnson Lane resident.
His murderer was eventually convicted after Oxley’s ex-wife, herself a felon, provided information. The reward money was returned to the donors.
Milby said there was a jump in Secret Witness calls after the sheriff’s office formed the Street Enforcement Team to investigate narcotics cases.
“It’s citizen-driven,” Milby said. “It’s important that the public know we have no overhead costs. All the money that is donated goes to solving crimes.”
YOU CAN HELP
Donations may be made to Douglas County Secret Witness, and mailed to Douglas County Secret Witness, PO Box 1478, Gardnerville NV 89410.
SECRET WITNESS STATISTICS
DECEMBER 1987-OCTOBER 2012
Total payouts: $43,585
Solved by Secret Witness tips
Armed robbery, 7
Attempted homicide, 1
Auto theft, 7
Destruction of property, 6
Grand larceny, 11
Parole violation, 1
Parole/probation absconder, 1
Prison escape, 1
Sex crimes, 1
Weapons violation, 1
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Capt. John Milby, president
Jane Tipton, secretary
Richard Peters, accountant/treasurer
Marty Swisher, Douglas High School principal
Lisa Noonan, Douglas County schools superintendent
Scott Shick, Douglas County juvenile probation
Vicki Sauer-Lamb, Douglas County juvenile probation
Sheriff Ron Pierini
Undersheriff Paul Howell
Sgt. Jim Halsey
Sgt. Mark Munoz