By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Kainai Nation has established the first Indigenous-led Crime Stoppers chapter, the Lethbridge Herald reports.
Blood Tribe Crime Stoppers is a joint initiative between Blood Tribe Police Service (BTPS), Blood Tribe Chief in Council, Blood Tribe Opioid Response and Southern Alberta Crime Stoppers.
“This program was generated and made for our future generations, for our community, for Kainai. Every voice matters,” Const. Samantha Pedersen with the BTPS said at a March 10 press conference.
Pederson added that the new Crime Stoppers chapter received its first tip on the day it launched.
She said Blood Tribe has been in an extended state of emergency due to the opioid poisoning crisis, so it was time for a new approach for helping band members.
The anonymity afforded by Crime Stoppers encourages residents to report criminal activity without fear of retaliation, Pederson said.
“We just need the information. A lot of times people are witnesses to things and they don’t want to say anything. Sometimes people are there when something happens and then they leave, they leave prior to police arrival as well, so all of that is really important,” Pederson said.
She said being the first Indigenous community to establish Crime Stoppers will hopefully serve as a model for other First Nations looking for innovative ways to address crime.
“Not only that, we can work together to keep our communities safe. So, I think right now with the rising crime in our Indigenous communities we need to think about something else, but also protecting our people at the same time,” Pederson said.
Travis Plaited Hair of the Blood Tribe Chief and Council and the Blood Tribe Police Commission said Crime Stoppers will assist in combating many of the problems with crime on reserve.
“I think having more tools in the box to help combat that is good,” he said. “Our success is everyone’s success.”
Southern Alberta Crime Stoppers president Russ Kramer said that while Crime Stoppers offers up to $2,000 to tipsters, 90 per cent of the time the cheques don’t get cashed.
“It’s just people being good stewards of the community,” said Kramer.
Pederson said that cash reward is determined by a board of volunteers depending on what the outcome of the tip is.
BTPS Chief Brice Iron Shirt said Crime Stoppers will provide a “shot forward” to a police service that is “very limited in resources.”
Blood Tribe opioid response co-ordinator Alayna Many Guns said this new addition to the BTPS’s crime-fighting arsenal will have a major impact on how it addresses the opioid crisis.
“We now have an avenue to reflect on, to be active on and to hopefully convict illegal activities in regards to opioids,” she said.