Crime Stoppers marks 25 years of cracking cases
William Brand talks about his late son Jacob and how Crime Stoppers helped with the search for the person who struck him alongside the road.
It’s become a ritual in Metro Detroit: Three times a week, weary and tearful residents appear before news cameras, asking the public to help find a missing family member — or their loved one’s killer — or the person who robbed their business.
The press conferences are the most visible initiative of a crime-fighting organization that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Since it was founded in 1993, Crime Stoppers of Michigan has been asked to help families and law enforcement agencies generate tips to solve 7,500 crimes, the group says.
While crime victims and family members are the organization’s public and sympathetic face, Crime Stoppers relies on more than emotional appeals to help catch offenders. Its other incentives: Cash rewards and the promise of anonymity for tipsters who provide information that leads to an arrest.
“None of these crimes that happened — regardless of what kind of crime it is — none of them happened in a vacuum. Somebody knows something,” said Crime Stoppers President and CEO Dan DiBardino. “It’s just a matter of us continuing to run all of our tools out to the general public until somebody feels some need to come forward and pass on that one piece that we need so that we can pass that on to the investigating agency so that they can make an arrest.”
Crime Stoppers offers hope to people like Raymonda Jordan, who joined other family members at a news conference this month to plead for information that could help police find the person who killed her 36-year-old brother, Raymond Jordan, four months ago.
Raymonda Jordan said she and other family members passed out about 2,000 fliers last month in the area of Warren and Chandler Park in Detroit to generate tips.
Raymond Jordan was shot multiple times about 1:15 p.m. Jan. 11 at a residence in the 4100 block of Three Mile Drive between Waveney and Bremen Street on the city’s east side.
“They took my brother,” Raymonda Jordan said at the news conference. “I need somebody to speak up ... for his kids, for his family.”
Crime Stoppers has helped solve 98 homicides in the past five years, DiBardino said. Tips to the group also have helped in capturing 283 fugitives, solving 78 robberies and arresting suspects in 77 sex assaults.
The organization, which serves Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties, ranks among the five busiest Crime Stoppers units in the nation, he said.
Last year, Crime Stoppers of Michigan paid out $90,000 in reward money for tips that ended in an arrest in a case, with payouts totaling $450,000 since 2012.
Corporate sponsors as well as family members and friends of the victims help add to the financial rewards posted for information that leads to an arrest in the case. Most rewards are typically around $2,500 but can be larger.
In the past five years, 28,000 people have submitted tips to Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-SPEAKUP or going to the group’s website, www.1800speakup.org, DeBardino said.
Private donations from individuals and companies fund the reward money, along with fundraisers, such as a golf outing scheduled June 4 at Boulder Pointe Golf Club in Oxford and one coming up in October, sponsored by Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn.
St. Clair County resident William Brand turned to Crime Stoppers to help solve his son’s hit-and-run death. The body of Jacob Brand, a 21-year-old Memphis resident, was found in a ditch the morning of April 30, 2016, in the 23000 block of Bordman near North Avenue in Armada Township.
Jacob Brand had reportedly left a tavern on Capac in Allenton several miles away about 11 p.m. the night before he was found. The 21-year-old electrician apprentice was riding with a friend but for unknown reasons decided to get out of the vehicle and walk. Investigators say Brand was struck by a car.
William Brand said Crime Stoppers helped print fliers and posted a billboard on Interstate 69 and Wadhams seeking tips. A suspect was arrested and charged in March, nearly two years after the death of Jacob Brand.
Joshua Howard Rickel, a 22-year-old Port Huron man who was part of the group Brand was with that night, was charged with failing to stop at a traffic crash causing death. He is due at 9 a.m. July 11 in 42nd District Court in Romeo for a probable cause conference.
Crime Stoppers, said William Brand, played a big role in solving the case.
“They were just phenomenal,” he said. “I think that person (with the tip) was a phenomenal person.”
Because of the nonprofit’s help, William Brand said he is able to work toward some closure in his son’s death “although we’re not there yet.”
Crime Stoppers of Michigan’s success rate has improved over the years thanks to changes in technology, DiBardino said. For instance, tipsters are now able to text or submit tips online. He said the organization’s success rate from tips has averaged 20 percent over the years.
“Sometimes things fall into place,” DiBardino said. “Sometimes tips may not lead to an arrest but (leads) law enforcement to facilitate an arrest.”
Law enforcement officials say Crime Stoppers is a valuable tool in their efforts to catch offenders.
“They have the marketing strategy (and) they have the rewards,” said Lt. Tony Cuevas, commander of the Michigan State Police’s Monroe County post. “We have a good relationship with them.”
For Armada resident Jessie Kanehl, Crime Stoppers helps her to hold on to hope that someday her stepson’s killer will be caught.
Kenneth Kanehl Jr. and his live-in girlfriend, Pamela Barnes, were found murdered July 3, 2005, in Waterford Township.
“If it wasn’t for Crime Stoppers (the public) would never hear about our case,” Jessie Kanehl said. “Without Crime Stoppers, I couldn’t get my voice out there.”
Jessie Kanehl said she feels the case will be eventually solved because “we know there’s a witness out there who knows who did it.”
The Kanehl case continues to be a priority for Crime Stoppers.
“During the eight years (since taking up the case) we have done multiple press conferences, circulated multiple posters, placed the information on all of our social media sites multiple times,” said Crime Stoppers spokeswoman Shirley Schuler.
Crime Stoppers is among a handful of organizations, such as America’s Most Wanted, Michigan’s Most Wanted and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which rely heavily on tips to solve crimes and find missing persons.
Community involvement is Crime Stoppers’ lifeblood, DiBardino said.
“We need to all be involved with keeping our neighborhoods ... our communities safe. We need to be involved,” he said. “Just like the Department of Homeland Security now has a program out that says if you see something, say something. We encourage people to do the same thing. If we don’t do that, then we simply let deviant behavior run wild in our neighborhoods and in our communities and we don’t need to do it. We don’t need to put up with it.”