HELENA — Across the country, Crime Stoppers tips have helped clear nearly 1.2 million cases since the organization was founded—some of those cleared cases are right here in the Helena Area. But now the future of the local Crime Stoppers program is in question as organizers struggle to raise money and find new volunteers.
Money from license plates was used to fund the Helena Area Crime Stoppers, but money is drying up since the plate was discontinued.
“I have to basically plead now,” Helena Area Crime Stoppers board president Richard Drysdale said.
Crime Stoppers has made an impact when it comes to solving crimes in and around Helena. A crime stoppers tip helped law enforcement identify the people responsible for vandalizing the Cathedral of St. Helena, and another tip helped break a 2019 homicide in Lewis and Clark County.
“We’ve had some pretty major users get broken by Crime Stoppers tips,” Helena Police Department Detective Division Sgt. Adam Shanks said.
Shanks said he still gets multiple tips each week through Crime Stoppers about everything from shoplifting to drug activity.
Reporting a tip through Crime Stoppers is different than sending information over Facebook or calling law enforcement.
“It’s complete anonymity,” Drysdale said. “We do not release the names, we do not even know the names.”
Tips called into the Crime Stoppers call center, submitted online and through the Crime Stoppers P3 app are anonymous.
Crime Stoppers may also grant rewards for tips that offer good information to break a case, that’s something law enforcement cannot do.
All of that—the call center, rewards, website, P3 app—is made possible through donations.
“We have no paid staff,” Drysdale said. “We do this free, we don’t charge anybody anything.”
There is another area where Crime Stoppers can be particularly useful—major cases.
“A lot of times on those major cases, people know things and they don’t want to tell the police for various reasons, but they’re willing to tell Crime Stoppers,” Shanks said.
When Drysdale thinks back on his decades-long career with the Helena Police Department, there is one unsolved major case that comes to mind.
“A missing persons case,” Drysdale. “I believe he was murdered, his name was Shannon LaBau.”
LaBau was last seen at the Atlas Building in Helena in 1999. Drysdale believes someone in the area has the information that could break the case—information that could be anonymously reported through Crime Stoppers.
“For years and years I’d like to have been able to raise enough money to have a large reward for that, or any other cold case homicide in this town or in this county,” Drysdale said.
For more information about Crime Stoppers and to support the local organization, visit their website.