Anonymous crime tip method catching on, could lead to solving dated cold case homicides

Victim's family pleads "snitching" culture change

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. -- - When it comes to solving crime, tips are often the vital tool law enforcement agencies rely on in their pursuit of justice. Sometimes the difficulty is in a case sits with witnesses who are hesitant about giving up what they know. But a method of "tipping" is catching on that is satisfying both investigators and those wanting to remain anonymous.

The new trend could help lead to the closure a Riviera Beach family has been waiting eight years to happen.

It was July 8th, 2004 when Vincent Nelson, 42, had just finished a card game.

"(It was) 12:00. I had wondered where was he? What happened because he said after the last card game, which was 9:45, he'd be home," said Sharon Engram, Nelson's then girlfriend.

Nelson never made it home. Investigators said Nelson was shot several times and his body was dumped on the road. It's been eight years of pain, Engram said, eight years her son left without his father and eight years those responsible have walked free.

"People need to speak out and quit taking up for these people because they're killing your kids. They're harming you, they may kill you one day," said Engram.

Engram said the culture of "stop snitching" needs to end. A call that is heard from time and time again, one law enforcement says is slowly changing through anonymity.

Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers said while people are still calling and getting on their computer and to email tips, the new trend it is seeing is with cell phones. The group said more and more tips are coming through via text messaging.

According to Sergeant Jim DeFago, about 50% of their tips now come through social media outlets like texting. DeFago said one tip sometimes is all they need.

"You know an investigation might be going in one direction and then that one phone call, could be six weeks later, six months, six years that says no, it's this person," said DeFago.

DeFago said even just solving just one crime, like the Nelson cold case, can send ripples throughout a community,  and soften a culture hard on keeping quiet.

"I'm not going to stop fighting and it's not over," said Engram.

Since it's inception in 1981, Palm Beach Crime Stoppers said it has cleared an additional 108 unsolved homicides.

DeFago said the office fields about 1,000 calls a month and a fourth lead to good case number calls.

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