On December 4, 1982 the high profile murder of store clerk Eileen Grogan was solved by a Crime Stoppers tip serving as a prime example to local law enforcement and the community that the fledgling organization was a valuable tool in solving crime.
Ward Calhoun Jr. has been a part of the local and state Crime Stoppers Association and for his more than 30 years of service both to the state and local communities in Lauderdale County, Calhoun was recognized recently with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi State Crime Stoppers Association.
"It is a great feeling knowing you are involved with an organization that has helped so many," Calhoun said. "We have been able to help law enforcement in apprehending and solving crimes and in turn, help those victims of crime get some justice."
In 1980, several businessmen in Meridian decided they wanted to help law enforcement by creating a local Crime Stoppers program. They solicited donations and established the program under the umbrella of the community development program. It was named the Meridian / Lauderdale County Crime Stoppers.
It was at that time that one of the original businessmen, Sam Hudnall, asked Calhoun, who was a vice president at a local bank to assist with the paying of the $1,000 tip. As a result of his assistance, Calhoun was then asked to join the board of directors.
"Sam is still with us, a valued member of Crime Stoppers and it was his vision that got this started which was, if not the first, one of the first programs of its kind in the state," Calhoun said.
In 1995, Calhoun was elected as the Chairman of the board and he continues to serve in that position today. Under Calhoun's leadership, the program has become a non-profit 501 C3, began using a call center to answer Crime Stoppers calls and modernized the program by using Tipsoft software to manage the information received on the tip line. The program has also assisted in doing crime prevention programs such as placing street signs throughout the county, crime prevention presentations to local organizations and drug awareness campaigns. The program has paid out more than $100,000 in tips, solved hundreds of crimes and aided in the arrest of hundreds of individuals with outstanding warrants.
"It would be impossible to know just how many crimes we have been involved in," Calhoun said. "It goes without saying this program proves the validity of a citizen's role in helping law enforcement, and in the long run, their own community, to combat crime."
The Meridian/ Lauderdale County Crime Stoppers currently is in the process of becoming a regional program by partnering with five adjoining counties. The program is always looking for new ways to aid law enforcement in the fight against crime.
Calhoun said no one envisioned the program would be as efficient as it has become. He said with one phone call, a citizen can cut down the amount of work a detective has to do and get the suspect off the streets much quicker.
"Think how much time and money is spent by law enforcement to search, question people, and otherwise work a case," Calhoun said. "Then think about how one little anonymous phone call with one small tip can stop all that and in turn lead to the arrest of the suspect. That's how efficient this program has been over the years."
All of this is done in a way in which the caller's identity is kept secret so as not to initiate any sort of retaliation by the suspect.
Remember, Crime Stoppers wants your information, not your name.