A new Suffolk County Crime Stoppers program will award residents up to $500 fast cash for anonymous tips that to lead to seizure of an illegal gun or arrest for illegal possession, officials announced Monday following recent shootings in the county.
The Crime Stoppers hotline is 1-800-220-TIPS and residents can also download a mobile app by searing P3 Tips.
“We do need the public’s help in our ongoing effort to stop gun violence,” Mr. Bellone said at a press conference in Hauppauge. “Illegal guns can be used to kill loved ones and they can harm our communities. We’re asking for the public’s help to turn in any illegal guns.”
The announcement came one day after Suffolk County police made three arrests following a shooting in Center Moriches at a supermarket parking lot.
“Unfortunately this was a violent weekend on Long Island,” Mr. Bellone said, noting there were six shootings in the five western Suffolk towns that resulted in two fatalities.
Suffolk Police Acting Commissioner Stuart Cameron said the Center Moriches shooting began with an argument among two passengers in a Mercedes that had four people in it. The driver pulled into the parking lot and the argument escalated to the point where two of the people fired guns at each other resulting in injuries to both, the commissioner said.
Four illegal guns were recovered in that incident, Mr. Cameron said.
He added that the the fast cash program means if a tip meets the criteria, the person would receive the money within 72 hours.
“Many of the shootings we’ve seen recently have been at house parties,” Mr. Cameron said. “We do try to stay ahead of them as much as possible but if you’re aware of a house party that’s occurring in the confines of our police district, I ask that you make us aware of it so we can monitor it and make sure that nothing bad happens at that location.”
Mr. Bellone said while the gun epidemic is a nationwide problem, the new Crime Stoppers program is one way to try to combat it locally.
“I can tell you the Suffolk County Police Department is going to take an aggressive approach to getting guns off the street and stopping any increase in gun violence,” he said. “This partnership with Crime Stoppers is an important part of that overall effort.”
The money for Crime Stoppers comes largely from donations, Mr. Cameron said. The Crime Stoppers program typically offers up to $5,000 rewards for information that leads to arrests. It was first started in 1994. More than $665,000 has been rewarded to tipsters who reported information anonymously and close to 2,800 arrests have been made as of April 2021.
Mr. Cameron noted there are multiple factors leading to the increase in shootings and said “it’s a very complex issue.”
While Mr. Bellone noted a 48% increase in shootings has occurred this year, the East End has not seen as sudden a spike. The most recent crime report for the Riverhead Town police lists one incident in the first half of 2021 for possession of a weapon.