by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer
When 6-year-old Lisa Bonham was abducted and killed in 1977 in Reno, Brock Richter's father, Don Richter, created Secret Witness to help generate clues to find her killer.
Though Bonham's murder was eventually solved through DNA analysis 23 years later, Secret Witness' tip line since its incarnation has helped to solve 1,000 crimes and 23 homicides.
A crowd of 120 business members at the "A Community United" Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, learned from Brock Richter, now director of Secret Witness, that Carson City will have its own chapter of the well-known tip hotline.
"We want to be another tool in the toolbox," Richter said. "We'll pay a reward for any crime (even) graffiti, gang activity and vandalism."
The rewards will be paid by local businesses and community members will be part of the chapter's board.
Richter noted that the Carson City School District's tip line will now also be paid through the Secret Witnesses reward program.
That news is good for Carson City, since increasing property damage and gang violence keep sheriff's deputies hopping.
"This is our own community reaction to crime in general. Many people feel intimidated to release information. This is another means, another method that people can get information to law enforcement," said Sheriff Ken Furlong.
A presentation by District Attorney Neil Rombardo pointed out what his office is doing with information they've received from national gang experts on how to combat the growing gang problem.
Dubbing his effort "Operation Crossroads," Rombardo talked of the model the city can use in an effort to stop the proliferation of street gangs.
"Carson City is at a crossroads and if we do not do something right here, right now, we are not going to succeed," he said.
"Operation Crossroads" will be used to assess the gang problem in the city and implement prevention in high-risk and high-crime areas by getting education to early-childhood development programs, after school and summer programs, faith-based programs, anger management programs and recreational activities. Rombardo also said parenting classes can help prevent children from becoming gang members.
"We need to go meet with parents and make sure parents know how to raise children the right way," he said.
He said reintegrating prison inmates into society with job skill training and tattoo removal programs will help those looking to get out of the gang lifestyle to do so.
Rombardo said his office pursues a gang enhancement charge, which adds prison time onto the sentence against anyone charged with a crime in relation to gang activity, and he said he also pursues strict enforcement of nuisance and forfeiture of property laws by sending property owners notices when a tenant is involved in gang crime. Since he began that practice, he said, he's sent out 24 notices and 20 subjects were evicted.
"If they can't feel comfortable here, and they're constantly having to move, they'll leave," he said.
With Secret Witness guaranteeing anonymity to callers, Sheriff Kenny Furlong hopes there will not be a repeat of the Halloween 2006 shooting in which 200 witnesses at a party, mostly fearful of reprisal, denied seeing who shot and killed a party-goer.
"This is just another example of how an entire community can come together and say we support law enforcement," he said.
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.
You Can Help
• To report a crime to Secret Witness, call 322-4900.
• Secret Witness offers rewards on any crime where someone is arrested and prosecuted. The payments are made at the direction of the tipsters and callers do not have to give their name.
• For students to report a crime at school, call 283-1799.