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Crime Stoppers Starts in Austin - About 1970's


I hardly knew this guy. He had just come to town to manage one of our TV stations. His name was Joe Jerkins. He came to my office to talk to me about an idea that he thought would work in Austin. The program was called Crime Stoppers. It was reasonably new in the town he had moved from, but it was working well there. He wanted to know if I would help him get it started here.

The TV station was willing to reenact one of the worst crimes each week. They would show it on their station, and the Crime Stoppers organization would pay up to $1,000 for a tip that would lead to the arrest of the guilty party. The person giving the tip would remain anonymous. Joe wanted me to help form the organization, find its board of directors, and raise the money to pay the tipsters.

I liked the program, and told Joe, "Let's go." I had a chairman in mind. He was Dr. Billy Amsted, a former UT Dean, and most recently, President of UT Permian Basin. I knew that he used to ride with police officers. He had retired and returned to Austin, and I figured he needed a new challenge. Billy said OK, if I would help him find a good board of directors, and, and, raise the money.

I had some ideas for both. I contacted "a few good men," who in turn contacted a few more, and we had a very solid board.

My idea for raising money went something like this. Recently a police encounter with some Latinos had caused most of that population to rise up against the police. The police needed some support in a visible way, and I thought my Chamber membership would rise to the cause. I talked to Chief Miles who liked the idea, and gave us his full support. We planned a "Support your Police" BarĀ­ B-Que on Auditorium Shores at the 3:00 in the afternoon at shift change, and stretched it long enough so that both shifts and their families could come. I sent a mailing to our members asking them to send $25 and come to the event. If they couldn't come, send the $25 anyhow.

We had food and music and Frisbees. The Frisbees had a police shield, a chamber logo, and Crime Stoppers on them. We thought it would be a nice souvenir, and give the kids something to play with that afternoon. As it turned out, I never saw so many police officers throwing Frisbees at one time.

Oh, yes, when it was all over, I was able to give Billy and the Crime Stoppers board a check for $18,000. The police got a morale boost, and Crime Stoppers was on its way.

Vic Mathias - July 10, 2009