Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said the arrest of a man who robbed two banks last year in Waukesha County demonstrated the importance of community involvement.
"This was an ultimate community policing," Jack said. "I was talking about it yesterday how important community policing is, and this was a shining example."
Three people — Maria Martinez, Jeffery Noak and Jeffrey Cota — were recognized by law enforcement agencies last week for providing police with critical information that helped get Clark off the street after he robbed banks in Waukesha and Wales.
Crime Stoppers of Waukesha County, in conjunction with the Waukesha Police Department and the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, honored the three individuals at a ceremony on Friday, March 6, at the Waukesha police station.
They received certificates of appreciation and checks.
"As the district attorney, I spend most the day punishing bad behavior, so it's nice to give some awards for good behavior," said Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper, who is also the president of Crime Stoppers of Waukesha County. "We are proud to provide awards to citizens who were extremely helpful to law enforcement in solving some dangerous criminal activity in our community.
"That is the whole purpose of Crime Stoppers — to have our citizens be the extra eyes and ears out there, to provide tips and information to law enforcement; to help law enforcement solve crimes."
Their tips led to the arrest of Thomas Clark, 55, who is spending the next 15 years behind bars for robbing banks in Waukesha and Wales over a three-day span from May 29-June 1.
Clark robbed Tri City National Bank, which is inside a Pick 'n Save, 220 E. Sunset Drive, in Waukesha, on May 29. About 13 hours after that robbery, Clark was reportedly seen inside a Kwik Trip, 2530 N. Grandview Blvd., about five miles northwest of the bank in Waukesha, at 12:49 a.m. May 30.
The convenience store clerks, Maria Martinez, Jeffrey Noak, recognized Clark from the description police provided the public on the earlier robbery and called police.
But Clark struck again. This time he robbed Town Bank at 511 N. Wales Road in Wales on June 1. According to the criminal complaint, Clark said he used some of the money he stole there to buy drugs and that he gave a large chunk of the stolen cash to his parents.
Cota, the other person recognized last week, provided information to the sheriff's department after witnessing Clark in Wales.
Following Clark's 15-year prison sentence, Clark will spend 10 years on extended supervision.
At a Feb. 17 restitution hearing, Judge Lee S. Dreyfus also ordered Clark to pay $1,860 as restitution to Town Bank in Wales.
The Crime Stoppers of Waukesha County is a civilian-run and -organized program, with a police adviser from every member police agency, including the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department.
Opper said Crime Stoppers is a "tool that's developed over the years" to provide more avenues for people to submit information through the Internet and text messaging. Before March 2012, the only way to submit a tip was by calling a toll-free phone number at (888) 441-5505.
People can text "WAUKESHA" plus your message to 274637 (CRIMES) to Crime Stoppers. When providing information, informants can remain anonymous.
"The real key to it is the anonymity," Opper said.
She added the three people honored last week are the example others should follow if they see a crime or something suspicious.
"We want to spread the message as a community that we all have a responsibility to help each other out, keep an eye open and keep us all safe," Opper said. "We're blessed in Waukesha County to live in a very safe community and it's because of citizens like you that are involved and care about your community."