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Wed, June 19

Yavapai Silent Witness sees success with 'Catch 22'

PRESCOTT - Yavapai Silent Witness has wrapped up the first phase of its 2008 "Catch 22" program with the arrest earlier this week of a child molestation suspect in the Village of Oak Creek.

As part of the program, The Daily Courier published a picture and a short bio of a felony suspect wanted by law enforcement officers from around Yavapai County on each of the first 22 days of May.

On Tuesday, Yavapai County Sheriff's deputies arrested this month's Day 20 "Catch 22" felony suspect, Jose Manual Acosta, who was on the wanted list since Feb. 17, 2005, for failure to appear on child molestation charges.

Steve Skurja, civilian program director for Yavapai Silent Witness, said that to date, "Catch 22" has received information leading to the arrest of 59 felony defendants in the county and paid out $29,500 in cash rewards since its inception 11 years ago.

Each "Catch 22" felony suspect that an officer arrests is worth $500 cash, but those reporting helpful information must call Yavapai Silent Witness at 1-800-932-3232 to become eligible for the reward.

Yavapai Silent Witness - in existence for the past 27 years - has taken calls in the first four months of 2008 that have resulted in the arrests of 85 felony defendants.

"Silent Witness is probably one of the best crime prevention tools that any department has," said Skurja, adding that his organization took its name from Phoenix Silent Witness down in the Valley. "People don't have to give their name when they call. They can remain anonymous. They give us information, and if that leads to an arrest or an indictment, we'll offer them a cash reward."

In 2007, Skurja said Silent Witness received calls that culminated in 184 felony suspects going to jail.

On Tuesday, Yavapai Silent Witness's Board of Directors conducted its monthly meeting and listened to nine cases.

In April, law enforcement officers arrested 21 felony suspects on 84 felony charges, and Yavapai Silent Witness paid out $2,850 to callers, Skurja said.

The charges included everything from drug possession to child abuse to aggravated assault.

Every year, Skurja add-

ed, each municipality in the county gives Silent Witness a nickel a head per capita to pay toward rewards. Yavapai County also provides money for the program to cover all non-incorporated areas.

In addition, Silent Witness gets money from an annual golf tournament fundraiser in September and private donations.

Yavapai Silent Witness moved from the Prescott Police Department to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office in February.

Skurja said the relocation has helped him scour the county better to talk with other communities outside the tri-city area, such as Ash Fork, Seligman and Bagdad, about Silent Witness.

"Our calls have gone up," he said. "On Wednesday morning, I received seven calls. On Tuesday, we took 20 calls. We're really happy with the progress of the program."

For more information about Yavapai Silent Witness, visit its website at www.yavapaisw.com.

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com

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