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Crime Stoppers effective
It's getting tougher for criminals in Ceres and other locations in Stanislaus County to get away with their crimes. That's because of Crime Stoppers, a new program that encourages persons to call in anonymous tips for rewards.

At least five persons in Ceres have been captured as a result of Crime Stoppers, which started a year ago with Modesto Police Department and now has all police agencies within the county onboard. Ceres Police has joined the program, putting $2,500 of city money on the line.

The Crime Stoppers program works on the premise that persons are more inclined to share information when they can be rewarded and be guaranteed their anonymity.

"Not all people collect the money," said Carla Castro of Crime Stoppers. "Not all people say they want a reward."

The program works like this: When a person calls in with a tip (521-4636), they are asked if they want to be eligible for a reward. If they say yes they are given a tip number and asked for a password. They are told to call back and if their tip results in an arrest, they may be eligible to pick up the cash reward, no questions asked. Callers are never asked for their name.

"Some people can participate in various forms," said Frank Parks, the voluntary president of the local board of Crime Stoppers. "Some people just give very brief information. Carla just spent two and a half hours on the phone with someone while police were in the process of making an arrest in the house with the suspect."

Many calls come from inmates behind bars.

"I have to explain to them that their call is not traced," said Castro of all callers.

Sometimes the information phoned in is bad but still checked out. Castro remembers one man who called in lots of information after seeing a photo of a female bank robber from October.

"This guy was convinced it was his neighbor. He gave me all these details; it was amazing. I'm like, wow, this guy knows a lot. Then I go talk to the detective and he goes, "Oh, I forgot to pull her off Crime Stoppers. I arrested her last week.'"

Sometimes it's more personal than neighbor ratting on neighbor. Sometimes relatives call up to expose the dirty deeds of relatives.

Crime Stoppers selects the crimes to publicize through its website, newspaper ads and news articles. The public may access the list of wanted suspects by going to the city of Ceres's website ( and clicking on the black and white Crime Stoppers logo at the lower right corner of the home page. Homicides are always profiled as are serious crimes against persons. Cold cases are also highlighted.

In January, the crime Stoppers line received 98 calls. Crime Stoppers is manned by Modesto Police employees but is overseen by a board of 15. Two representatives on the board from Ceres are Alonzo Trejo, an official with County Bank, and local real estate agent and mother of four Kimberly Walton. The board votes on who gets rewards and assist with fundraising.

Crime Stoppers has not had to raise funds because it was seeded with an anonymous donation of $20,000. Rewards are up to $1,000 and based on what crimes are involved.

The two Ceres board members responded to a call put in by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce. Trejo wanted to get involved in the community.

"I think it's fantastic," said Walton, also president of the Mae Hensley Junior High School PTA. She plans to publicize the number through the schools. "What a great opportunity to do something."

Crime Stoppers was directly responsible for the arrest of Timothy Cardaway, who was wanted for a Ceres assault with a deadly weapon case. Arrests were also made in the vandalism of Argus Continuation High School and two arrested for break-ins to convenience stores.

"They were identified through video surveillance photos that ran in the paper," said Castro. "Another was a sex offender at large."