Philadelphia and Neshoba County are now part of the new East Mississippi Crime Stoppers, an anonymous crime reporting system that spans five other counties and several cities in the area.

The new Crime Stoppers number is 1-855-485-8477 (TIPS).

Coordinator Ward Calhoun, who is also chief deputy for the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, gave city and county officials an overview of the program last week.

Crime Stoppers is used in assisting law enforcement agencies in fighting crime. All tips are anonymous and can be taken 24-hours a day. Cash rewards of up to $1,000 are given for tips which result in an arrest.

While in the past several cities and counties operated their own Crime Stoppers programs, Calhoun said a regional one was much more effective as law enforcement officers in participating counties already have close working relationships.

The program is funded by assessments in Justice and Municipal courts for moving traffic violations such as speeding and running stop signs.

The law allows the assessment of up to $2 per violation.

Chief of Police Grant Myers said the regional Crime Stoppers program would be a useful tool in solving crimes.

"I think it will be a good tool because the caller speaks with an operator out of Texas and is assigned a unique number," he said. "The caller will always be referred to by that number and never asked for a name or address."

Information on previous crimes can also be called in to the new Crime Stoppers number, Myers said.

"Information on the fire at the concession stand at Philadelphia High School as well as in previous shootings which occurred in the city can still be reported to Crime Stoppers," Myers said.

Mayor James A. Young is also excited about the regional program.

"People don't like to call the police department," he said. "This being anonymous, we should get a lot more tips."

The tip information is then forwarded to Crime Stoppers part time executive director Pam Vance, who relays the information to the designated person in the city or county the alleged crime occurred.

The caller is told to call back on a certain date to see if the information led to a reward.

Crime Stoppers designees here are Police Investigator Marsha Baveta and Sheriff's Investigator Ralph Sciple.

The program has already proven successful, Calhoun said, noting that three large drug cases were among the crimes solved through tips.

"A tip usually gives an investigator a direction to go in solving a crime or it could be the missing piece of a puzzle," he said.

Calhoun said the tips usually average about $300.

He said the secret to the program's success is for law enforcement to promote the phone number.

East Mississippi Crime Stoppers consists of Clarke, Jasper, Newton, Neshoba, Kemper and Lauderdale counties and the cities of Philadelphia, Meridian, DeKalb, Quitman, Stonewall, Enterprise, Bay Springs, Newton, Union and Decatur.