Photo by Owen Jones

Lake Highlands neighbor Chuck Curtis wanted to help the police. But he never envisioned running down an alley, tackling a bad guy and shackling him with handcuffs. Good thing he’s a talented TV advertiser. 

The Crime Stoppers USA secretary is transforming the nonprofit’s marketing department with three TV commercials shot in Dallas. Curtis hopes the spots will empower neighbors to report suspicious behavior via Crime Stoppers’ anonymous hotline. If callers provide information that leads to an arrest, they’re paid with a cash reward. 

Viewers may recognize Bryan Street Tavern and homes on Lower Greenville when the commercials air nationally this summer. At least one major cable company with 16 million subscribers has already expressed interest. The spots will also be distributed to local TV stations via more than 500 Crime Stoppers chapters across the United States.

The commercials depict real-life scenarios that have prompted residents to call the Crime Stoppers hotline. Callers are often relatives, neighbors or bargoers who overhear critical information. But as the commercials show, the ability to report anonymously means identity is kept hidden, even from call responders. 

The commercials are a new marketing strategy for Crime Stoppers, which previously relied on tabloid publications filled with mugshots and weekly crime re-enactments for publicity. As print circulation decreased and surveillance footage advanced, the organization had to look for other ways to advertise. 

“A lot of people don’t know about us,” Chuck Curtis says. “We still have an awareness problem all across the country. We have operations down really well, but we don’t have marketing down so well.”

Last year, the local Crime Stoppers chapter, which works with more than 90 law enforcement agencies in Dallas, Collin and Grayson counties, provided 148 tips in 2018 that led to arrests, says chapter board member Jean Maier Dean. After the commercials air, Curtis hopes to see that number grow as neighbors become more aware of the organization.

“That’s my answer to everything — do a TV commercial,” Curtis says.