Onslow County’s own was named Crime Stoppers Board Program of the Year, and Chairman Joe Yannessa said it’s not just which program solved the most crime.

The Jacksonville/Onslow County Crime Stoppers was recognized with the statewide award at the 25th anniversary of the annual state Crime Stoppers conference.

Yannessa couldn’t say enough about how important the board members and community were in being honored.

In order to win, a program has to show they’ve impacted their community and that they did it through active board members, Yannessa said.

“Our board is very, very active,” he said.

That includes conducting annual events, like the BBQ fundraiser, initiating Text-A-Tip and awarding scholarships to two high school graduates pursuing careers in criminal justice.

“During 2015, Jacksonville/Onslow Crime Stoppers recorded its most active and successful year in the history of the program when measured by civilian board member participation, community support/response and number of hotline trips leading to arrests,” Yannessa wrote in a letter to the state board when applying for the award.

It wasn’t just enough to say it, though – Yannessa said he had to prove it.

He sent in articles from The Daily News as justification for community impact, including crime stories published after a tip helped law enforcement apprehend a suspect and stories written about community events hosted by Crime Stoppers.

The local program is unique in many ways, Yannessa continued, including being the only program in North Carolina that awards scholarships, honors recent law enforcement graduates and has a joint program with the community college that advertises calls to Crime Stoppers.

Those are some of the reasons the state board chose Onslow County, Yannessa said, a much smaller program in comparison to Charlotte or Greenville.

Yannessa did not know how many programs are active within North Carolina currently, but said it was previously around 85. Yannessa asked how many programs applied for the award at the conference in Boone, he said, and was told the information is private so as not to dissuade other programs from applying.

While attending the conference, Yannessa said he announced Onslow’s Crime Stopper’s new policy to hand out rewards for information that’s deemed of use to law enforcement rather than hold the reward until an arrest or conviction.

It was such a different concept, others in attendance were shocked, he said.

Yannessa said the core values of Crime Stoppers are to allow tips to remain anonymous and to pay rewards, and there was no reason to hold onto the rewards until a trial convicts a suspect, which could be years apart from when the tip was called in.

Instead, the board discusses new tips at their monthly meeting when they determine whether to give a reward.

All the board’s time and efforts – this award makes it worth it, Yannessa said.

“This helps us verify that the program is valuable,” he said.

Yannessa didn’t want the spotlight on just one person or event. The award was the result of community members speaking up and texting tips, law enforcement officials turning those tips into results and businesses that support the program. He thanked each and every person, program and business that made the award possible.

Yannessa and Bob Bright also were elected to two-year terms on the Crime Stoppers State Board of Directors and volunteered to co-host next year’s state conference, which is planned to be held in Carteret County.