CrimeStoppers celebrates more than 4,000 arrests

lfabian@macon.comNovember 18, 2013 

In the past 13 years, anonymous tipsters helped arrest 4,061 people through Macon Regional CrimeStoppers.

Nearly 500 people gathered Monday at the Wilson Convention Center for a luncheon to celebrate that milestone.

“What a great day,” said Warren Selby, CrimeStoppers board chairman, looking out at the crowd of public safety personnel and local leaders. “Our program is about community engagement.”

CrimeStoppers uses the media to partner law enforcement with the public and offer rewards for arrests in high profile cases.

Through last month, the program paid out more than $51,000 in rewards.

In remarks at the luncheon, Selby noted last week’s arrest in the All About Animals break-in and animal cruelty case.

Numerous tips came into the organization and led to the arrest of Crystal Gale Fessler, who is accused of freeing dozens of dogs at the shelter last month. The animals fought, killing three, injuring 15 others and leaving others traumatized.

“There is a tipster out there somewhere who will possibly receive $18,000,” Selby said. “It’s through that partnership for over 13 years that we’ve had over 4,000 arrests.”

In videotaped remarks, Bibb Sheriff David Davis explained CrimeStoppers tips helped lead to arrests in a double homicide in Monroe County and an armed robbery at Publix on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard.

Since 2000, the program, which operates in eight Middle Georgia counties, netted more than 7,500 warrants served, almost $608,000 in stolen property recovered and nearly 6,000 cases cleared. Nearly $578,000 in reward money has been paid at an average cost of $142.29 per arrest.

In the video presentation, Macon police Capt. Jimmy Barbee praised the operation’s effectiveness in crime solving.

“They pay better than we do,” Barbee quipped, drawing a roar of laughter from the guests.

The luncheon, sponsored largely by Macon’s three Rotary clubs, Walthall Oil company and Warren Associates Inc., raises reward money.

In a live auction, attendees bid on private public safety experiences including a shooting or driving demonstration at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, a Macon Police/Bibb County Sheriff’s Office SWAT presentation, a bomb squad detonation and a tour of the GBI’s Crime Lab.

Downtown Macon Rotary Club President Amy Maley presented CrimeStoppers a check for $95,350 from the clubs and sponsorships.

The lunch also honored retired Macon Police Chief Mike Burns for his 39 years of service to the city.

After receiving a standing ovation, Burns took the microphone to dispel rumors about his motive for retirement.

“You know with consolidation, my job was abolished. So I just felt it would be easier on the sheriff and the men and women in my department if I just stepped aside,” Burns said. “Hopefully that made the transition go smoother.”

Burns said being chief was an easy job, except for the politics.

“All you have to do is have some integrity, and I’ll say backbone, to stand up for your people, your department and do what’s right,” he said.

“Sometimes that’s not popular. You’ll get criticized, but who cares? You did what was right.”

He told his colleagues they would always be his brothers and sisters in law enforcement.

“And if you stop me, don’t forget that,” he joked.

CrimeStoppers presented the chief with a framed print of Public Safety Memorial Park and Selby added an Auburn stuffed tiger mascot.

“It will never see the light of day from here on out,” said Bulldog fan Burns, just two days after Saturday’s loss.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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