By Jeff Shultz
Cecil Byron Harrison was busy texturing a ceiling in a Pontotoc County home earlier this month when he looked down from the stepladder he was on and found himself surrounded by Garvin and Pontotoc County lawmen.
Harrison was wanted for a variety of felony warrants from Garvin County, including second-degree burglary, unlawful possession of paraphernalia and possession of controlled substance.
As he stepped down from the ladder he asked, “Who’s going to collect the reward?”
Harrison probably knew he was on borrowed time after he was featured in an installment of Crime Stoppers in area newspapers just a day or two before his arrest.
“Once his photo was published in Crime Stoppers we began receiving several tips on his whereabouts,” said Deputy Steve Mayhan, coordinator for the Garvin County Crime Stoppers.
“In fact it was the first tip we received that lead us to the home in Pickett where he was at,” Mayhan added.
Harrison’s arrest is just one of a handful of success stories for the Garvin County Crime Stoppers program, which will commemorate its six month anniversary next month.
Crime Stoppers began alerting the public of various criminal cases last September, asking residents of Garvin County to call a special toll free number with tips on criminal activity in the county.
Now, almost six months later, the program is boasting a healthy bottom line and some success stories to go along with it.
“When we started the program, we had around $6,000 in our account thanks to the efforts of Steve,” said Danielle Caldwell, Treasurer for the Crime Stoppers program.
“Today we have around $8,000 due to several businesses and individuals who have donated money to the program after we kicked it off in September,” she added.
That’s proof that residents in Garvin County are taking ownership of the program and it’s efforts to curb crime, Mayhan said.
“They see the value of the program,” he said. “They’re not only calling in tips to our hotline, but some are actually donating money to it because it’s working.”
Based on similar programs around the state and nation, the Garvin County Crime Stoppers offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of individuals involved in criminal activity in the county.
The program offers anonymity to individuals who call in crime tips to the program’s tip line, which doesn’t have any caller ID associated with it.
Since it began its public campaign, the Garvin County Crime Stoppers has had 23 tips with 18 of those tips closed as of January 23, 2012.
“We currently have three tips under investigation,” Mayhan said.
Mayhan admits he was a little disappointed in the program at first, thinking Crime Stoppers should have had more tips coming in.
That was until he went to a Crime Stoppers training workshop in Lawrence, Kansas, in November, just three months after the program began.
“At that time we were working on six tips turned into us. When I told the trainers at the workshop how many we were working since September they were all astounded. They said some programs go on for a long time before getting that many tips,” he recalled.
Like a proud father bragging on his children, Mayhan takes special pride in the success of the program.
Months before the program became public; Mayhan researched the project, worked on acquiring a board of directors to manage the program and came up with some bylaws for the nonprofit status of the program.
“The program’s success is due in part to on Steve’s efforts to reach out to the community and draw support for Crime Stoppers. As coordinator, Steve has taken an idea of mine dating back to my plans if elected Sheriff, to start such a program and ran with it,” said Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes, noting Mayhan spent countless hours developing the program.
“I’m real proud of it,” Mayhan said. “I’m especially proud that the program is doing something to curb criminal activity in our county.”
If you have any information on any crime in Garvin County, please call Garvin County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-211-STOP. A reward of up to $1,000 is offered for information on any crime.
All callers will remain anonymous.