ORLANDO, Fla. – In a small corner office in Downtown Orlando, five women, most of them part-time, sit in front of computer screens wearing telephone headsets.
"Crimeline, how may I help you?" said one of the staff members as she picks up the phone at her desk.
She types the details rattled off by the caller: name of suspect, street name, address, tattoos, criminal history and any other information offered up.
The caller is a tipster, one of 10,000 people to call Crimeline every year and one that may provide the big break a detective needs.
Crimeline executive director Barb Bergin said when News 6 asks viewers to call Crimeline, they do, almost always.
"Our phones are ringing at 5 and 6 p.m. when you're on the news so we know that that relationship is very important in getting valued tips," Bergin said. "If you run a story and say 'please call Crimeline,' we will probably take a tip from someone in our community trying to help us solve it."
The Central Florida Crimeline is one of the top five busiest in North America.
The tips often help solve cases both big and small, Bergin said.
Smaller cases that don't always make the news get the same treatment by detectives who flood neighborhoods with Crimeline flyers urging tipsters to call in anonymously, she said. "Unfortunately, the world we live in we'll solve that case, but while we were solving there were others that needed help," Bergin said.
Bergin is a 25-year law enforcement veteran. She retired as an Orlando police detective to lead Crimeline in 2009, and currently sits on the Crimestoppers national and state board of directors.
"We've been here 39 years and done one thing: keep our tipsters safe and anonymous," Bergin said. "This is what I know: I can speak to seniors and they know the phone number. I can speak to kids at UCF and they know the phone number. I can speak to high school kids and they know the phone number."
When Crimeline staffers are not in the office, they rely on a call center in Canada to take tips and relay the information to staff members. Crimeline staffers are on call 24 hours a day in case a time-sensitive tip comes in, such as location information on a fugitive.
Every single tip that Crimeline receives is passed on to detectives.
"As a past detective I can tell you this: you're working a homicide case and it's going nowhere and then one day there's a tip on your desk and it starts you down a path," Bergin said.
Crimeline is a nonprofit and funded entirely by court fines. Bergin said rewards are always paid out but most tipsters call because they care about their community. "Every single tip means something to someone, or they wouldn't have made the phone call or the effort," Bergin said. "So whether it be the neighbor who's worried about a house next door because they think they're selling drugs or someone who watched the show and called in, every tip is in important."
Bergin said Crimeline helped solve 39 crimes just last month.