Silent Witness helps with arrests

Started in 1996, the Mohave Silent Witness, offering rewards from $50 to as much as $5,000, has been credited in numerous arrests by law enforcement officers in Kingman.

Director Mark Wimpee estimates Silent Witness receives between 150 and 200 calls a month and more than 200 people have landed in jail throughout the county because of the program.

The idea for Silent Witness started when a Yuma resident, Jack Smith saw crime decrease by 25 percent in that city because of a similar program, and when he moved here suggested the program to Kingman Police Chief Larry Butler, according to George Beck, media spokesman for the program.

The program offers rewards from $500 for information relating to homicides, Beck said.

Silent Witness announced Tuesday it is offering a $2,000 reward, an increase from $500, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect involved in the death of Keith Ardell Benefield, who was found murdered in Dolan Springs April 11, Wimpee said.

He said this is the second largest reward offered for information for a crime.

The largest single reward was for $5,000 for information concerning an attempted murder in Bullhead City two years ago.

No suspects were found in that case, he said.

KPD Lt.

Steve Auld said the majority of the calls through Silent Witness however are for drug activities.

"There are several cases that we have trouble solving until Silent Witness advertises," Auld said.

"We get very good results when they advertise."

Reward amounts are generally based on the type of crime under investigation.

For example, for information on cases of sexual assault or child molestation, Silent Witness offers rewards from $400 to $500.

For tips regarding cases of child abuse, robbery and kidnapping, rewards are $400.

Though rewards are generally set, each incident is reviewed case by case and the reward can be increased depending on the nature of the crime, Beck said.

Silent Witness's purpose is to assist law enforcement agencies in fighting crime.

It reports information about wanted criminals and crimes in progress.

Silent Witness works with Kingman Police Department, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies providing a place to call for concerned citizens to leave anonymous tips when reporting a crime.

Currently all anonymous calls reporting a crime go through a police dispatcher at the Kingman Police Department.

Wimpee's goal is to have his own paid members staff his own office.

But he figured it would take about $60,000 a year to staff the program.

Many citizens feel more comfortable calling a civilian organization like Silent Witness instead of a police department, he said.

The non-profit organization raises money to pay for rewards through flyers, organizing spaghetti dinners, raffles and other fund-raisers.

The group's first reward, for $300, came after someone spray-painted graffiti at Firefighters' Memorial Park.

The county attorney's office donated $1,200 to help get the fledging program off the ground, Wimpee said.

Anyone calling Silent Witness does not have to give his or her name, addresse or phone number.

The only information taken is details on the reported crime.

Callers are given a code number and receive the reward when a criminal is captured.

Some callers, however, do give their names and phone numbers, Wimpee said.

A Web site is now online with suspected criminals' photos and biographies, reward information and details of the crime.

The program's Internet address is: www.mohavesilentwitness.com, he said.

The Kingman Chamber of Commerce also recently donated a billboard near the state Department of Public Safety building on Andy Devine Avenue and Silent Witness expects to complete the sign this week.

Citizens can call Silent Witness at 753-1234 or toll free at 1-888-227-8780 anywhere in Mohave County.