THREE decades since Crimestoppers was founded, one of the charity's leading figures in Wales reflects on the scheme's success and explains why people can trust its guarantees of anonymity.

Ian Johnston, formerly Gwent's police and crime commissioner, helped publicise the charity when it was first introduced in Wales. He is now Wales' chair for the Crimestoppers organisation.

"Crimestoppers has been hugely successful, and it continues to be now," Mr Johnston said. "But when we got on board, there were only three schemes in the country. We've certainly come on a long way from there.

"It took a lot of work with detectives to adopt the system ­– every senior investigating officer in the country had training."

Last year, 1,300 calls were made to the charity relating to crime in Gwent – an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year.

And in 30 years, Mr Johnston said proudly, there hasn't been one case in which anonymity was broken.

"Under no circumstances will the police find out the identity of a Crimestoppers caller," he said. "The IT is set up so not even the computer can see who the call is coming from."

Over the years, more people have contacted Crimestoppers through its website, and the charity uses social media, as well as traditional media, to launch appeals.

Crimestoppers was set up following the furore surrounding the murder of police constable Keith Blakelock during a riot in London in 1985, when people with information were frightened to come forward.

Mr Johnston said Crimestoppers worked because the majority of people want to see offenders get punished.

So why is Crimestoppers necessary?

"Some people don't trust the police," he said. "A lot of people may have past involvement with the police, or they don't want people in their community to think of them as 'grasses'.

"But we're not part of the police – we can't be.

"Without a relationship with the police, Crimestoppers wouldn't work, but there's a significant and meaningful gap between us."

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Michael Ashcroft, a wealthy businessman, put up a reward for information, and resulting conversations with the Metropolitan Police Commissioners led to Mr Ashcroft (now Lord Ashcroft) founding Crimestoppers in 1988.