Illinois residents can help solve crimes by checking off a line on their state income tax returns.
A bill passed last summer by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn gives taxpayers the opportunity to support Crimestoppers programs across the state.
Savoy resident Dave Lawrence, legislative committee chairman for the statewide Crimestoppers organization and a member of the Champaign County Crimestoppers board, said the new voluntary charitable donation checkoff added to state tax returns will make more money available to help fund local organizations and help areas not yet served by Crimestoppers to start their own organizations.
"Taxpayers can use Schedule G when they file their income tax returns and donate to the Illinois State Crimestoppers Association," Lawrence said.
The association is the statewide organization that certifies local Crimestoppers groups. There are currently 36 certified local Crimestoppers organizations.
In order to be certified, they need to undergo an audit, have a board of directors containing no police officers and have a professional coordinator who is a police officer.
Here is how it works: People with information about crimes or fugitives can call the Crimestoppers in their area. (In Champaign County, information can also be sent by anonymous web tip by going to http://www.373tips.com  or by sending an anonymous cell phone text to the following: Tip397 plus the information to CRIMES (274637).) People providing the tips neither have to give their names nor appear in court. Confidential arrangements are made for payments of rewards, which are approved by the Crimestoppers board each month.
According to the tax form, any donations from the checkoff reduce a person's refund or increase the amount a person owes. "Accountants tell me that less than one-half of one percent of people who owe taxes fill out Schedule G," Lawrence said. "Generally, the people who fill out Schedule G are the people who get refunds because the money comes out of their refunds."
Lawrence said he got the idea for the checkoff from a lobbyist for a criminal justice organization he met in Springfield.
"The lobbyist suggested that we go for it," Lawrence said.
Lawrence went to state Reps. Naomi Jakobsson and Chapin Rose, who agreed to co-sponsor the bill in the House. State Sen. Mike Frerichs agreed to sponsor the bill in the Senate.
"I sponsored the bill because of the work that Crimestoppers does in local communities," Jakobsson said. "Crimestoppers, through its anonymous citizen reporting, has been successful in doing just what its title suggests — stopping criminals in their illegal acts and assisting in crime solving. The tax checkoff will provide additional funds for Crimestoppers to continue their valuable community service."
"As a former prosecutor, I know that Crimestoppers is an invaluable tool for law enforcement," Rose said. "I couldn't have been more happy to help with their efforts in this regard."
According to Lawrence, once charitable organizations are placed on the income tax forms, they need to raise at least $100,000 a year from the checkoff to remain on the form the following year.
Several organizations on last year's tax returns failed to meet the minimum $100,000 standard, Lawrence said, so they were dropped from the tax return list, allowing the Illinois State Crimestoppers Association and the After-School Rescue Fund to make their debuts on the new tax returns.
In the past, charitable contributions designated in the tax checkoff program were diverted by the state for other things, Lawrence said, but he said that shouldn't be a problem in 2012.
"Since Gov. Quinn's recent announcement declaring an end to state borrowing from the checkoff program groups, every dollar a taxpayer designates to the Illinois State Crimestoppers Association will be used to enhance existing local Crimestoppers organizations and to develop new Crimestoppers groups in areas where no such programs exist," Lawrence said.
Lawrence estimates Crimestoppers will receive at least $100,000 statewide during the first year of the checkoff.
"We think we will need about 4,000 contributions to make our $100,000," Lawrence said.
The statewide organization will give some of the money to local Crimestoppers based on need. Other money will be used by the statewide group to enhance Crimestoppers' programs. The rest of the money will help develop new local Crimestoppers in areas that are unserved.
"We need more Crimestoppers organizations in central and southern Illinois," Lawrence said.
On the Web
Champaign County Crimestoppers' website is http://www.champaigncountycrimestoppers.com/ 
Douglas County Crimestoppers' website is http://douglascountyil.com/sheriffcrimestoppers.html 
Vermilion County Crimestoppers' website is http://vccrimestoppers.org/