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Silent Witness program encourages witnesses to help fight crime


Elizabeth Medora

NORTH VALLEY – It takes a community to take a stand against crime, but a witness with information on a criminal case may be worried about the repercussions of making a public report. Through Silent Witness, anyone can make an anonymous report by calling (480) WITNESS and aid law enforcement in investigations, providing valuable information in fighting crime.

No matter when you contact Silent Witness, you’ll get a live person, ready to take your information. While anonymity seems rather unattainable with modern technology, Silent Witness uses technology to block callers’ information, paying extra for rotary-style phone service that blocks callers’ identification. Callers are given a code name when they call, and no personal information is ever requested. Witnesses can call in tips or go online to for text and online options.

Sergeant James Rothschild said that witnesses’ opportunity to be anonymous increases the amount of information given to the police by far. Rothschild noted that some people aren’t comfortable having contact with law enforcement, and many witnesses are uncomfortable having police come to their home and having their community seeing them giving information to law enforcement.

“This allows them to report confidentially, within the privacy of their own home, without any fear of reprisal,” Rothschild emphasized, saying Silent Witness can remove the “fear element” for witnesses. “We protect their anonymity with all those methods.”

Silent Witness is just that – silent. Rothschild emphasized that Silent Witness officers will not break anonymity.

Silent Witness works with multiple law enforcement agencies, ensuring that information gets to investigators as efficiently as possible. When information comes in, Silent Witness officers perform initial investigations and route tips accordingly.

Silent Witness gives officers “one shot to get all the information we can,” Rothschild said, adding that some witnesses are open to follow-up. Witnesses can call in again with their code name to give additional details. Witnesses who give information that leads to an arrest in a case may be eligible for a reward, and Silent Witness works with specific banks to provide password-protected reward accounts from which witnesses can receive their funds without having to provide their identities.

The Silent Witness program is an effective crime-fighting tool, although exact stats aren’t available due to the confidential nature of the program. In addition to providing information that gets criminals arrested, witnesses frequently provide tips that lead to additional charges being filed against felons, making cases more airtight and closing additional investigations. Tips also help police recover stolen property and get drugs and weapons off the street. 

Silent Witness regularly releases requests for information on specific cases. However, information on any case is welcomed. Callers can also call in tips about a crime they feel may be about to happen, but Rothschild urged callers to call 911 for those situations, as 911 will provide a faster response and time may be of the essence in that situation.

“When in doubt, call 911, and you can use Silent Witness for follow-up,” Rothschild said.

Rothschild has been working with Silent Witness for about a year, and he has orchestrated multiple community presentations to inform residents about the Silent Witness program, which he calls a “really good communication tool.”

“We’ll go talk to anybody who’s willing to hear us,” he said.

Rothschild emphasized that Silent Witness functions as a collaboration of the media, which shares information; law enforcement that protects the anonymity of the witnesses; and the community that provides information that helps close cases.

“It’s very effective,” he said.

“Every time we do a big push and asked the public for help, they’ve responded in a big way,” Rothschild noted. “People really want to live in a safer community, and when we give them that tool to help put somebody away who’s jeopardizing the safety of that community, they really respond.”