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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 01:05 am

High profile

Veteran SPD officer becomes new face of CrimeStoppers

Paula Morrow is the new face of CrimeStoppers
Untitled Document Paula Morrow has spent a significant portion of her law-enforcement career maintaining a low profile in the Springfield Police Department’s narcotics unit — occasionally going undercover, often working with informants. It’s an assignment she says she truly enjoyed but one that she realizes she can never return to since accepting a new assignment as coordinator for Sangamon and Menard Counties CrimeStoppers. Morrow will replace Sarah Iaiennaro as the face we see in regular television spots talking about the crime of the week. “That’s part of the position. I’m fine with that,” she says. “CrimeStoppers is something I’ve always wanted to do. The position only becomes available once every three years, and I wanted the opportunity to try it.”
Many positions at SPD have a time limit; in narcotics, it’s two years. Morrow rotated out of that unit in April 2006. Despite the drastic change in visibility, much of Morrow’s new job mirrors her old one: She’s still trying to coax information from people who have knowledge of criminal activity, still focused on shielding the identity of anybody courageous enough to share what he or she knows. “In the narcotics unit, we protected our informants. We did a lot of stuff to make sure we protected their identity,” she says. “[At CrimeStoppers], we never even ask their names.”
Without names or other identifying information, Morrow has no way to call a tipster back if she realizes that she needs more information. She must earn a caller’s trust during the first conversation so that he or she will feel comfortable enough to call back later. “I’ve already had people call and ask for me,” she says.
Anyone who calls during regular business hours will get Morrow; after hours, the CrimeStoppers number is answered by dispatch.
Morrow has also worked as a regular patrol officer and was the neighborhood police officer for the east-side beat 300 (virtually everything north of South Grand) for about 18 months, beginning in 2003. Some might think that her current position — sitting in an office near the food court at White Oaks Mall, occasionally appearing in front of a television camera — is perhaps less dangerous or less stressful than her previous assignments. Morrow doesn’t see it that way. “Things can happen at the mall, and you’re still in a marked car. I don’t really know that there’s less of a chance of getting into something good,” she says. “This is a different kind of police work but way more responsibility than when I was in patrol. There’s a lot to do, and I’m one person. I find it challenging. I don’t stop thinking about it when I go home.”
Tipsters can earn up to $1,000, depending on the significance of the information they provide.
CrimeStoppers may be reached at 217-788-8427 or 800-397-2288.

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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