Tim WhitnellBurlington Post
Burlington resident Cal Millar recently received The Gary Murphy Award of Excellence from the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers for his 30 years of volunteer work with the provincial organization.
A former longtime journalist and current author from Burlington has received a provincial award for his long association with the Crime Stoppers program.
Cal Millar, a 71-year-old Burlington resident, received The Gary Murphy Award of Excellence from the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers at this year’s Ontario Crime Stoppers conference on June 7 in London, Ont.
The award’s recipient is selected by a majority vote of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers Board of Directors.
Millar was nominated by Crime Stoppers of Halton.
His involvement with Crime Stoppers dates to 1984 when he was one of the founders of Toronto Crime Stoppers, the fourth such group in Ontario. Hamilton had the first in 1983.
During his time with the Toronto program he extended his contributions to the Crime Stoppers cause by serving on the board of directors of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers and also served as a director with Crime Stoppers International.
He has written several books about Crime Stoppers and travelled across North America speaking about his books and the program.
His fifth book, published in 2014, is entitled What Is Crime Stoppers.
A sixth book, about the foundation of Crime Stoppers, is due out in 2016.
“It’s not a police program, it’s a community program operated by a group of volunteers,” Millar said of its structure.
A volunteer board of directors reviews tips in relation to cases that have been solved and decides if a cash reward is to be paid to the anonymous providers of information.
More than 1,700 Crime Stoppers programs operate in about three-dozen countries, but there are notable exceptions and circumstances.
“England only has one program, one phone number, to handle the whole country. Australia went with a standard (phone) line but has programs in each state,” says Millar.
He admits it’s a struggle to get people in some countries to trust that Crime Stoppers is an anonymous service that doesn’t record telephone calls and does not have call display, which shows the incoming phone number being used by a tipster.
As an example, Millar noted the tiny southern Caribbean island Trinidad and Tobago — with a high crime rate and known as a transit point for drug smuggling between Venezuela and to other parts of the West Indies and beyond — has a Crime Stoppers program but the phone line is redirected to Miami, Florida.
He said a mistrust of local authorities in Trinidad by its own people is the reason for the unusual set-up.
Some of the small island’s tipsters, he said, are worried that someone answering the phone might recognize their voice and that that information could endanger their life or that of someone they know.
And in a country where a Crime Stoppers program might be needed the most there isn’t one, said Millar.
“There is no Crime Stoppers in Mexico because of the total distrust of authorities.”
One of the biggest changes Millar says he’s seen in the Crime Stoppers movement over three decades is the technology available, especially social media, to get word out to the public about unsolved crimes and to receive tips from them.
The other big change, said Millar, is the role of the Crime Stoppers co-ordinator. He says it has gone from being a police officer that investigated the cases based on direct tips to an officer that now simply takes notes based on tips from the public and passes that information on to other investigators, not getting involved.
“The co-ordinator is seconded to Crime Stoppers (by the local police service) and takes information (from the public) and distributes it where it’s needed,” he said.
“If a person (tipster) identifies themselves, the call is ended,” he said.
Millar said many cases, from murders to drug dealing, have been solved worldwide since the first Crime Stoppers chapter was formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in July 1976, following a fatal shooting in that city. An anonymous tip helped police arrest two people in the case later that year.
The Crime Stoppers International website states that since 1976 its programs worldwide have been responsible for more than a million arrests and the seizure of more than US$10 billion in illegal drugs.
“There are so many cases solved,” said Millar, who recalled a high-profile Toronto murder that was solved through Crime Stoppers.
Toronto police undercover officer William ‘Bill’ Hancox, 32, was on a stakeout in Scarborough on Aug. 4, 1998 when he was stabbed to death in his unmarked vehicle.
An anonymous tip came in to police a day or two later. Police found two female suspects sitting on a porch in Toronto. They were arrested, eventually both convicted of second-degree murder and given life sentences.
“The police might have taken months and months, and gone in a totally different direction” if not for the Crime Stoppers tip early in the investigation, said Millar.
The tipster in the Hancox case even came forward publicly in order to testify at the trial of the two women, a very unusual circumstance, which is why he can talk about it now, said Millar.
“…you are looking after your own community,” he said of the tips program, “(and) a local tip can lead to an international investigation.”
Cal Millar is probably better known by older readers as a newspaperman. He worked for the Toronto Telegram from 1967-71. When that paper folded he joined the new Toronto Sun and worked there from 1971-83. He was at the Toronto Star from 1983-2004. Millar ran for Burlington city council in Ward 5 in 2010 finishing a close second to winner Paul Sharman out of seven candidates. His books are available at Amazon.com.
To leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers of Halton, call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or text TIP201 with your message to CRIMES (274637) or visit www.haltoncrimestoppers.com.