For 26 years, Phoenix-area police have turned to Silent Witness when they’ve run out of leads on violent crimes, says the Arizona Republic. For the first time in the organization’s history, the number of tips and arrests decreased last year. The organization, which has paid out nearly $1.3 million in rewards and solved more than 9,000 crimes, is shifting its focus. Instead of waiting for olice agencies to contact it for help, the agency is soliciting them for cases. The reasons for the decline are unclear, but officers believe it may be due to the saturation of police shows with similar reward programs.
This week, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio started his own Web site, where the public can turn in criminals. Silent Witness typically receives 50 to 70 new cases each month, most fom the Phoenix Police Department, which runs the program. It is staffed by a sergeant and six detectives from the Phoenix agency but takes tips on crimes committed in any city. With two additional staffers paid for by Phoenix, the program will solicit other agencies for cases. “We’re not in competition with anyone,” said Sgt. Paul Penzone, who runs Silent Witness. “We’re here to serve everyone.”