Performance to benefit anonymous tip service

CADILLAC – From wanted murderers to individuals violating parole, the Silent Observer program in Osceola, Wexford and Missaukee counties has often been the sole factor in justice being served in many criminal cases in the area.

Individuals who wish to anonymously inform police of suspicious behavior can call the hotline at 1-800-528-8234, pass along needed information and possibly even receive an award for their help.

But the program is running out of money.

To raise funds and promote program awareness, Elvis Presley tribute artist Jake Slater will take the stage at Cadillac High School on May 5.

“This is a strong program that’s been ongoing for 21 years and this is first major fundraiser we’ve had in quite some time,” said Amanda Hamilton, Silent Observer board secretary and event organizer.

The Silent Observer program began in 1991 in the Cadillac area and later expanded into Missaukee county. More than five years ago, Osceola county joined the operation.

Cadillac Police Department, Department of Natural Resources, Traverse Narcotics Team, Reed City Police Department, Wexford County Sheriff’s Department and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department are some of the law enforcement entities that have benefited from tips given through the Silent Observer hotline.

“We don’t know who called in, we don’t have their phone number and the line is not traceable,” said Osceola County Sheriff Jim Crawford. “People can call in tips on their best friends and no one will ever know.”

Many tips have been called in to the program to help solve crimes in Osceola County. Operators have received information about drug operations, sex offenders and, most recently, information that led to the arrest in the LeRoy Citizen’s Bank robbery last month.

“People don’t realize how much it helps police,” Crawford. “This is information that is really hard for us to find if someone didn’t help.”

Every tip called in to the hotline is answered by operators at the Wexford County Sheriff’s Department. The phone line is separate from the central dispatch line and has no caller identification.

Individuals are asked to create an identification code and call back in a month to find out if their tip was good, possibly receiving a monetary reward.

The Silent Observer board meets once a week to review each tip received. If the tip is valid and aids law enforcement in solving a case, the board will issue a reward between $50 and $5,000. Individuals then will be instructed how to pick up their reward anonymously.

Last month, the board gave out $300 in rewards to individuals who helped solve cases.

“It saves taxpayer dollars because of how much police work it would take to solve the case or find the person when someone else has that information they can give us,” Crawford said.

The fundraising event will start at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $12 at the door and can be purchased in Osceola County at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department, Henry’s General Store in LeRoy, Hougland’s Hardware in Tustin, Shell Mini-Mart in Marion and Sunoco in Evart. Organizers expect the 700 tickets to sell quickly.

All money raised for the program will fund the phone line and reward program. For more information visit facebook.com/cadillacareasilentobserver or contact Hamilton at (231) 775-9776.