Creative coasters could help catch crooks

By Lindsey Gordon

Published 08/06 2014 06:07PM

Updated 08/07 2014 11:48AM

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Champaign County Crime Stoppers hopes bar patrons will help them solve cases. Police are putting coasters at restaurants and bars. But, they aren't your typical drink coaster. WCIA-3's Lindsey Gordon explains.

This is a creative marketing tactic. The department's done it once before, putting Crime Stopper information in the hands of more people.

Crime Stoppers hopes it pays off with more tips. It gets 500 - 600 tips a year. Police know there's more information out there. They want to let people know where to go with it.

"We're on television, radio, newspapers. We also use billboards, we're at bus stops and now, coasters."

For a short while, they'll be at bars and restaurants in Champaign, Urbana and Mahomet. Deputy Chief Troy Daniels says this targets a more captive audience.

"Sometimes people are relaxing, or they're thinking, or they're talking and, if they happen to see this, it may be the time during the day where they can actually think, 'Oh, maybe I know something that the police need to know.'"

The coasters provide information about how to submit anonymous tips and different ways people can do it.

"I think it's a good idea, but everybody doesn't drink or go to bars or pubs or restaurants. You've got to reach out to the mainstream."

Cunningham suggests they put more posters in businesses in high-crime areas. But, it still left an impression on him.

"I'm going to take them with me and hand them out at the barber shop."

Crime Stoppers passed out nearly 5,000 coasters this weekend. They may distribute them in Champaign again, but once they're gone, they're gone.

"I think that the more we can get our name out there, the more information and the better information we can get."

Daniels says the strategy may not pay off today or even next week. He says it could be six months from now that someone has information and the coaster will come to mind.

Law enforcement in several other states use a different tool to solve cold cases. It's a deck of playing cards with each featuring a photograph and factual information about an unsolved homicide or missing person case.

They're distributed in state prisons. Police agencies say the cards have led to several tips and arrests.

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