Numbers don't tell the whole story for Crime Stoppers

TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers have seen a drop in the numbers of cases cleared over the past three years, but they say that doesn't mean fewer criminals are being caught.

Austin Ranft doesn't think of his job as a mini-mart clerk as being too dangerous. But, nine months ago, it became life or death.

"I heard the doorbell go off, the buzzer, and they walked in. I looked up and there was two guys running at me with bandanas over their face and hoods on with sunglasses, and they both had guns," said Ranft.

Working the graveyard shift at this Circle K on Court Street, Austin was held at gunpoint by two robbers.

"I was shocked, not really knowing what to do," said Ranft.

And with no one else around, finding the criminals becomes a tough task for police to find out alone, making the community the only resource available.

"That's essential, because if you don't have public participation, you're not going to solve the vast majority of crimes," said Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers Coordinator Mike Blatman.

Over the past three years, Crime Stoppers have gathered over 500 tips yearly, with arrests staying the same. Solved cases have seen a significant drop: In 2011 there were 410 solved, but this past year, just 246.

"There's really no correlation between the two. So as far as trending up or down or anything else, we don't look at that at all," said Blatman.

Police say that each case is given to the city's agency. Some cases receive no tips, while other receive a lot. One trend that has gone down are tipsters asking for rewards. 3.5 percent asked for rewards in 2012, while just 1.9 percent last year.

"Most people are not necessarily asking for the rewards to begin with, it just shows they're interested in making sure they live in a safe community," said Blatman.

And for victims like Austin, he highly recommends residents keep their eyes open and report crimes.

"If I'm in the community, I would do the same, and I would want someone to do the same for me," said Ranft.

"Every time a person chooses to pick up the phone and call and report information is a success," said Blatman.

Police say that if you have any information whatsoever, no matter when the case was, you can reach out to Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers. You may be eligible for cash rewards.