By Bryan C. Hanks / Editor
Published: Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 05:20 PM.
Three years ago, following an unprecedented homicide spree that saw some of our fellow city residents gunned down in cold blood, officials from The Free Press and the little bank sat down and came up with a plan to attempt to curb crime in our beloved city.
The idea that emerged from the meetings was “Catch a Criminal,” a weekly feature in The Free Press. The plan was as simple: run a photo provided by the Kinston Department of Public Safety in our newspaper with the little bank providing $500 cash to whoever made a call that led to the arrest of the perpetrator. The caller would remain anonymous — and our streets would become safer.
Thanks to Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, City Manager Tony Sears and City Councilman Joe Tyson, the program is being revived. A couple of weeks ago, those three brought The Free Press and the little bank back to the table — along with local cable access television station TACC-9 — to bring “Catch a Criminal” back.
Beginning in Tuesday’s edition of The Free Press, a photo provided by KDPS Director Bill Johnson will appear on Page 2. The photo and the information accompanying it will be of someone the KDPS would really like to have behind bars.
All you have to do, dear reader, is call the phone number provided by the KDPS if you know where the wanted person is. Your anonymity is guaranteed. As soon as the KDPS arrests the person and they’re behind bars — you’ll have your money within 24 hours.
It’s that simple. When we ran this program in 2011, the KDPS arrested 23 of the 24 people featured in “Catch a Criminal.” The 24th was eventually captured a few months later. Thousands of dollars were earned by anonymous folks who helped clean up our streets. The program was so successful it was discontinued after a few months because the KDPS ran out of candidates for “Catch a Criminal.”
TACC-9 General Manager Martha Bishop is planning a series on her station to highlight the program and to help put more law-breakers behind bars.
It goes without saying that “Catch a Criminal” would not exist without the good-hearted folks at the little bank — especially President and CEO Rob Jones and Senior Vice President Scott Newton — who are as tired as the rest of us of the crime that is sullying the good name of our city. Jones and Newton are two people who put their money where their mouth is … and isn’t that refreshing in this day and age of folks who want to complain all the time but do nothing to improve our city? Kudos to Jones, Newton, Margaret Williams, Jeremy Jones and the folks at the little bank for supporting this program.
But this program will not enjoy the success it achieved in 2011 without your help. Be sure to pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Free Press, look at the photo — and earn the easiest $500 you’ll ever put in your pocket. At the same time, you’ll know you’re helping clean up the streets of Kinston.
Bryan C. Hanks is the editor of The Free Press; his column appears in this space every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at Bryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BCHanks.