Authorities seek details in phoned crime tips

According to Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg, the most powerful tool in the fight against crime is the public.

While law enforcement actively patrols and tries to seek out crime, it is often, he said, a tip from someone who has witnessed or learned of some illegal activity that allows justice to be served.

Recently, Sheriff Rodenberg asked that citizens not only make an effort to report crime, but that they be more specific when they do.

“Citizens call in anonymously, and we don’t expect them to tell us their name if they aren’t comfortable with that,” Sheriff Rodenberg said. “I do need to stress though, when people call us or send us notes, they have to be detailed as to what is going on, or where or who is doing it. Sometimes, it only says that so-and-so is committing crimes. We can’t do anything with that. There is virtually nothing. We can’t file a charge, we don’t know where to begin investigating. That’s useless. We really need to know the nature of the activity, when it’s going on and where it’s going on if possible. The more we have, we can look into things.”

Several years ago, the sheriff’s department set up an anonymous tip line designed to gather information on drug activities within the county. Since that time, the line has grown to encompass any sort of illegal activity and allows residents to call in at any time of the day or night to report crime.

“The line started about the time I became sheriff,” Sheriff Rodenberg said. “It originally started for drug tips, but we figured we had a 24-hour answering service capability, so we could use it for any type of crime tips. So, for about the past 10 years, we’ve had it in operation and have received some good information from citizens who call in.”

However, Sheriff Rodenberg said that the calls are often vague or hard to understand. Generally, each call hints that a crime may have been committed, but the information fails to give the authorities much to go on. Being detailed, said Sheriff Rodenberg, is the key to turning your information into an investigation and conviction.

“We’ve received a number of tips with enough specificity that we can get an investigation started so we can put an end to it,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “It’s been very useful, specifically with drug activity. Fraud, scams, thefts and property crimes are also used a lot. Even if you don’t see it, if you think it could be credible information, call in. We’d rather have it overused than underused.”

Generally, the tip line, (513) 625-2806, is answered by a machine, but may be answered by a live person during office hours if someone is available. In either case, Sheriff Rodenberg said that leaving your name isn’t necessary, but very beneficial. Sometimes, during the course of the investigation, additional information is needed to proceed. Being able to call someone and ask questions could prove invaluable at this point. Leaving your name, however, is perfectly safe, said Sheriff Rodenberg, who said that all information is kept confidential.

“We’ve never had an incident where someone has accused us of using their name,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “I know from when I was a prosecutor, you have to be careful when handling information from citizens. Obviously, it would be optimum if someone could give us their name and number, because if we have questions we could follow up on it. If we don’t have that, it’s possible we may run into a dead end and not be able to move on with it. You don’t have to leave your name, but it can be helpful.”

Recently, two large drug busts were made possible by the tipline after residents of the county called in to report suspicious activity. In one instance, a resident even e-mailed pictures in to the sheriff’s department to back up their claims.

“We had a meth lab back in June on Laurel-Nicholsville Road,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “We had some information on the subjects involved in this, but we needed more. Well, some tips came in through the hotline and that gave us enough to go forward and complete the investigation. We were able to obtain a search warrant and put a meth lab out of business. That case was brought to court in large part through tips we received. Another case is the marijuana eradication last month. We received a call and an e-mail with photos and everything. We were able to find and eradicate around 29 plants and charges were filed in that case as well. Those are just two in the past few months.”

To report illegal activity, call (513) 625-2806, any day of the week, any time of day.