Det. Tori Roddey’s job is to get people to divulge what they know about some of the worst crimes that happen in Charlotte, including turning in family members or friends who’ve done wrong.
But when he makes his pitch for the Crime Stoppers hotline, he emphasizes doing the right thing. Most people call in tips with no plans to collect the up to $5,000 in reward money the program offers.
“The majority of people never collect the money,” he told people at a NoDa neighborhood association meeting. “Only between 30 and 40 percent of the people actually collect the money. The rest just want to live in a safer community.”
Roddey spent last week going to neighborhood meetings spreading the word about Crime Stoppers and passing out pens and bracelets to serve as a reminder for potential tipsters. He said he can’t guess how many times he’s given the Crime Stoppers speech, both at meetings such as like the one earlier this month and at impromptu gatherings in neighborhoods have seen a spike in crime.
The community has seen an added need for his job this year.
Earlier this year, the police department’s solve rate for homicides dropped to 63 percent, the lowest number in years. Last year’s clearance rate was 89 percent. Several high-profile killings remain unsolved, including the death of 7-year-old Kevin Rodas and four other people over Labor Day weekend. Police have asked people to call Crime Stoppers several times in relation to those cases.
Since 1982, the Charlotte version of the national program has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars for information that helps solve thefts, robberies, murders and other crimes.
Charlotte Crime Stoppers started with a 24-hour hotline in 1982. Over time, the program began taking tips by text. A decade ago, the tipline went bilingual, receiving calls from Spanish speakers. Last year, the program began giving $500 to anyone who could point officers to a felon who possessed a gun.
The program has evolved to make aiding investigators as easy and painless as possible. That includes the new Crime Stoppers app.
“We hope this will get kids to report,” Roddey said later. “They know a lot about crimes that go on.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers formed when the crack cocaine epidemic sent crime rates soaring in cities across the nation. In 1982, then-mayor Eddie Knox led a drive to raise private donations to fund the program. Since then, the program has given out nearly half a million dollars. Money still comes from private donations and corporate sponsors.
When someone calls 704-334-1600, it’s routed to a call center in Canada that’s monitored 24 hours a day. Tipsters don’t leave their name – they’re given a tip number. Callers can check to see if the tip lead to an arrest by using that tip number. If so, they can make plans to collect the cash.
Roddey is the second officer to hold the Crime Stoppers post. His older brother was a police officer, and that prompted Roddey to major in criminal justice in college. After half a decade in the private sector, he joined CMPD. His younger brother joined at the same time. At one point, Roddey and his two brothers were CMPD officers.
Roddey spent 10 years as an officer in the Metro Division in northwest Charlotte and was a school resource officer in the Westover division before shadowing his predecessor as the Crime Stoppers detective.
Now, he goes through the tips sent to the Crime Stoppers line, picking out the ones that seem credible and sending them to detectives.
He also drives around in a special police cruiser emblazoned with details about the tip line. Once a week, he goes on TV with WBTV, the Observer’s news partner, soliciting tips to help officers solve a recent crime.
And he attends meetings to explain the program. One night during a meeting in the Villa Heights community, a woman stopped him to provide a tip about drag racing at a nearby bar.
“I think that’s more a question for the other officers,” he said, indicating the other officers at the community meeting. Later, he walked the community association through situations that merit a call to a Crime Stoppers (frequent, suspicious activity at a house down the street) and situations that should be phoned into 911, such as shots fired in a neighborhood.
Crime Stoppers had led to over 3,000 arrests, more than 3,600 cases cleared and over $5 million in recovered property.
Last year, Crime Stoppers received 2,200 tips with 212 people being arrested as a result.
Roddey says that’s why he passes out the pens, makes the speeches and gives people insight into what kind of calls are most likely to help officers.
“The program works,” he said. “We get people off the street. We get information. And for those who want a monetary award, we do pay. The beautiful thing about this program is it’s all anonymous. I don’t want to know who you are. I don’t want to know where you stay. I don’t want to know anything about you.”
Know something about a crime?
Tipsters can call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. They can also send a text message. Start your text with the code “TIP372” and send the code and your message to CRIMES (274637) on a mobile phone.
The Charlotte Crime Stoppers app can be downloaded from the iTunes store and the Google Play store.
According to the Crime Stoppers website, police want to know “about burglaries, robberies, drug deals, vandalism, violent acts and threats of violence; any crime of a serious nature. And if you know of a crime that is about to be committed, we want to hear about that, too.” Cleve R. Wootson Jr.