TULSA - Tulsa police will tell you Crime Stoppers tips have become an invaluable investigative tool, helping solve any number of crimes ranging from petty thefts to murder.
The system works, they say, because they work very hard to keep the tipsters anonymous.
But anonymity can be a double-edged sword, if the tipster loses the tip number they're issued by the Crime Prevention Network.
Carol Bush is Executive Director of CPN in Tulsa.
She says they offer three methods for tipsters, text message, a webform, or a phone number -- the well-known 918-596-COPS.
Whichever method they use, they're immediately issued a tip number.
"We have no idea who that person is," Bush said. "They are identified by a code number, period."
"The whole point is to provide a secure and safe way for people to turn in bad guys."
The issues begin if the tipster loses that number. At that point, there's no way for CPN to track their tip.
Ofcr. Jill Roberson coordinates Crime Stoppers for TPD.
"I do have many people call me that they have lost their tip number," Roberson tells KRMG. "Well, that is the only thing I have that connects you to this tip."
Lose the number, and they have no way to prove you're actually the tipster.
Thus, no reward money can be paid.
Another issue comes if there are multiple tips. TPD and CPN work together to decide which single tip actually led to the physical arrest, and only that tip qualifies for a reward.
Protecting anonymity would be difficult if the IRS got involved, wanting those rewards counted as income.
For that reason, the national organization, Crime Stoppers USA, has managed to work with the IRS to create a mechanism to allow rewards to be paid out without any taxes due.
That does mean, however, that there are strict guidelines on how large those rewards can be.
It all works, Bush said. Not only are police getting a lot of tips and solving crimes, but those tipsters' identities have been protected.
"Not once has the anonymity ever been compromised" in Tulsa, Bush says, "and there are some Crime Stoppers around the country who can't say that."