CRIMESTOPPERS has helped alert police and authorities to some of the most heinous crimes, from child sexual exploitation and domestic violence, to knife crime and modern-day slavery. Its work has helped capture fugitives, facilitated more than 144,000 arrests, led to the seizure of almost £350m of illegal drugs and even prevented a planned prison break.

Its purpose is to give communities a voice in the fight against crime and its success boils down to a promise it makes to each and every person who makes contact with Crimestoppers – a promise of complete anonymity; giving those with knowledge of a crime a safe place to be able to report it without fear of repercussions.

Guaranteeing the anonymity of those who use its service is the “very backbone of Crimestoppers’ existence”, according to Ruth McNee, who was recently appointed by the charity as regional manager for the North-East, working within the boundaries of three police forces: Durham, Northumbria and Cleveland.

“We believe in the power of the people to stop crime and, as an independent charity, Crimestoppers allows members of the public to do exactly that by speaking up, while staying safe,” explains Ruth. “We need people to know that they can give information to us completely anonymously, they will never have to write a statement or speak to the police, and no one will ever know they contacted us. It is therefore absolutely crucial that we protect the anonymity of every single person we speak to at all costs.”

The charity is to be applauded, having never once in its 31-year history broken its promise to ensure every single informant remains completely nameless. In the past 12 months alone, Crimestoppers has heard from 450,000 people, sent almost 150,000 reports to the police and actively helped solve or prevent 27,263 crimes.

However, research by Crimestoppers suggests that almost one fifth of the public have known about a crime yet chosen not to report it to the police.

Ruth says: “There are people in every walk of life who won’t report crimes that are happening in their neighbourhood, even under their own roofs. Some believe the information they have won’t be of interest to the police, others don’t want to have to write a statement or give evidence in court. That’s where Crimestoppers charity gives people a different option; we can be a lifeline when there is nowhere left to turn.”

Crimestoppers’ ethos has barely changed since its conception in 1988. Lord Ashcroft and his business colleagues launched the service following the 1985 London riots, specifically to allow information to be reported anonymously. Lord Ashcroft remains chairman of the charity, which relies on donations.

Today, Crimestoppers operates throughout the UK with a network of regional managers, a centralised call centre in Surrey and its head office in London. People can contact the service by telephone or via the charity’s website.

The charity gathers information and disseminates reports to the appropriate police forces, agencies and organisations, including anti-terrorism, the National Crime Agency, Border Force and HMRC, which use the intelligence to support ongoing investigations or create new leads.

It runs a number of campaigns each year, appealing for information, as well as educating the public about a vast array of crimes from cannabis cultivation and fraud, to human trafficking and domestic violence.

As regional manager, Ruth is heavily involved in campaigns across the North-East, highlighting serious organised crime, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour. Specifically, in the south of the region she is working in partnership with housing provider Thirteen Group to launch a campaign in the Middlesbrough area about drug-related crime, while further north she is looking at ways to raise awareness of crime around the coastlines.

“We have some stunning coastlines in the region, but the public needs to be aware not only of the lovely views, but also of anything that may look suspicious or out of place. Sadly, people are being trafficked and firearms and drugs are finding a way into our region and our country via our shores,” says Ruth, who grew up in Northumberland and has lived in County Durham for the last 15 years.

“We live in one of the most beautiful areas of the UK and I’m passionate about helping to protect people and their communities here, allowing them to continue to live happily and safely in this fantastic area. My key message to people is that if they see something untoward, they can always ring Crimestoppers anonymously, speak up and stay safe.”

* Crimestoppers: 0800-555-111;


The curse of modern slavery

THE North-East has one of the highest rates of modern slavery of all regions outside London, according to a recent Salvation Army report, with more than 200 victims identified last year.

Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or financial gain and can include labour or sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and work within the drug trade. Victims are forced to work for little or no money, live in squalid conditions and are often made to claim state benefits or take out loans that are then taken from them.

Last month, Sunderland City Council revealed that it had dealt with six cases of modern slavery in the past year, while Northumbria Police is currently investigating a large-scale slavery case with up to 90 potential victims following a raid on a Gateshead factory in April.

In June officers from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) raided a nail bar in Wallsend, Newcastle, and arrested a 28-year-old man on suspicion of modern slavery offences following concerns about the welfare of women working in the premises. Two women and a newborn baby were taken to a care centre.

“Nail bars, car washes and factories are common areas where we see labour exploitation,” explains Ruth McNee, who as North East manager of Crimestoppers charity works in partnership with GLAA, police forces and other authorities to help stamp out modern slavery in the region.

“There are some really horrific tales of modern slavery happening in our country, cases of children being sold to work and vulnerable women kept in frightening conditions. We don’t like to think of it, but it is happening here in the North-East and if people know about it, they need to report it.

“Crimestoppers just wants the public to have an awareness of these crimes. So, if you use a car wash or go into a nail bar, for example, and just feel that something isn’t right, or that the workers appear scared and unsure, then it might be that they are victims of modern slavery. That needs reporting and investigating.”

A lifeline to young people at risk

FEARLESS is a Crimestoppers service specifically for young people. With its own branding, website and team, Fearless aims to increase awareness around crime and criminality, as well as provide a place to pass on information about crime anonymously and safely.

Throughout the UK, Fearless has been a lifeline to young people at risk of crime, as well as bystanders – the friends, families, associates and neighbours of criminal groups and offenders.

Regional manager Ruth McNee is looking to secure the funds to employ a Fearless outreach worker in the North-East. “We need a youth worker in the region to talk directly to young people in schools, pupil referral centres and youth organisations, and give advice or guidance to those perhaps on the cusp of criminality who are vulnerable to making wrong choices,” she says. “The Fearless outreach worker will deliver high quality interactive workshops, covering areas such as knife crime, violence, county lines and drugs, while helping to challenge preconceptions about crime, reduce the glamour and debunk some myths.”

More information about Fearless is available at and through the ‘FearlessORG’ YouTube channel.