The local newspaper, the Yarmouth Mercury, requested the help of Great Yarmouth Local History & Archaeological Society to erect a blue plaque to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the commencement of Crimestoppers. The society were happy to facilitate their ambition.
Crimestoppers was originated in the town of Great Yarmouth in 1983 by Mike Cole, then a Detective Inspector with the Norfolk Constabulary, Jim Carter, Manager of the town’s Woolworth store, and the late Peter Ware, then Editor of the Yarmouth Mercury. Crimestoppers encouraged people to pass information to police anonymously without fear of reprisal. Informants called a dedicated telephone number at Great Yarmouth Police Station. A reward was handed out in brown envelopes for information received by Jim Carter, often in dark alleys. Crimestoppers was so successful that it was rolled out nationally five years later in 1988. Credit for the scheme was, and is, claimed by Lord Ashcroft, when in fact credit should be given to the three originators in Great Yarmouth.
The national Crimestoppers’ website states that it was established by Lord Ashcroft in January 1988 and re-named Crimestoppers in 1995. Today, Crimestoppers is an independent charity, but its Great Yarmouth roots are overlooked or altogether omitted. The plaque was unveiled by Peter Ware’s son Matthew, who said: my father would be extremely proud, not in an egotistical way, but that he has left a legacy in a place where he really enjoyed working. Also present were the originators, Jim Carter and Mike Cole.
The first Crimestoppers scheme was created by policemen in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mike Cole was visiting the town of Peoria in Illinois on a police exchange a few years later, when he witnessed a similar scheme and he sought permission from his police chiefs to trial it in Norfolk. It was an instant success and businesses from Great Yarmouth’s Chamber of Commerce signed up and agreed to anonymously pay money into a Crimestoppers’ account. Every Friday, the Yarmouth Mercury published an appeal for information in return for a cash reward. Latest figures (2012) from the national office reveal that more 95,000 pieces of information were received by Crimestoppers in 2012; 22 people are arrested and charged every day because of that information; £229 million worth of drugs have been seized from the streets in the past 15 years through Crimestoppers’ tip-offs; and during the summer riots of 2011, the amount of information sent to the Crimestoppers’ website increased by 300%.