Crime Stoppers get first stop

Some of the surveillance footage that led to the arrest of James Caven. Source: KPD

It took less than a week for the new East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers program to yield its first arrest.

The nonprofit Crime Stoppers organization, which was officially launched in Knoxville on May 5,  is designed to encourage the public to report criminals by offering cash rewards as well as guaranteeing complete anonymity. 

The program passed its first test with flying colors when an anonymous member of the public submitted information that led to the arrest of 37-year-old James Caven for stealing a cell phone, according to KPD spokesperson Scott Erland.

Surveillance footage that helped lead to the arrest of James Caven. Source: KPD

“We were thrilled to see that the East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers Program already delivered on its promise by facilitating the successful resolution of its first case. Our expectation is that this will be the first of many investigations that are assisted by the program,” Erland said.

The incident leading to Caven’s arrest took place on April 28 at the Walmart on Kinzel Way in East Knoxville. A woman was using the self-checkout lane and set her cell phone down while she scanned her items, but when she turned back around her phone was gone, authorities said. 

Security cameras managed to take pictures of the suspect and these were posted on KPD’s Facebook page along with instructions on how to submit a tip to Crime Stoppers. It didn’t take long for an anonymous tip to come through that allowed police to complete the investigation and take Caven into custody.

Caven was being held without bond Tuesday on charges on theft up to $1,000 and for allegedly violating the terms of his probation from an earlier charge, records show.

“Public safety is a shared responsibility and this program provides a mechanism for the community to actively and safely participate in the maintenance of public safety. It is encouraging to see the early response and buy-in from the citizens of Knoxville,” said Erland.

The person who submitted the information is now eligible for the Crime Stoppers cash reward program, according to Stacey Payne, KPD’s planning & grants manager.

“The East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers board will discuss the reward amount at their next meeting,” Payne said.

The Crime Stoppers program started in 1976 and now has approximately 1,000 chapters, with East Tennessee’s program being the most recent to open. Despite the name, East Tennessee Crime Stoppers is focused exclusively on crimes in Knoxville right now but officials hope to expand its coverage to surrounding communities eventually.

James Caven. Source: Knox County Sheriff’s Office

Discussions about starting a local chapter began last October but accelerated as Knoxville’s homicide rate climbed to previously unseen levels. The homicides of five students from Austin-East Magnet High School over a period of just a few weeks rammed home the need for a program that could effectively gather tips from the community, especially as two of the Austin-East killings remain unsolved, authorities said.

 Tips or information submitted through Crime Stoppers nationwide have resulted in over 775,000 arrests and the clearance of over one million cases with over $117 million paid out in reward money. Additionally, over $2 billion of drugs have been seized based on Crimes Stoppers tips, according to the organization.

Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $1,000 if the information given leads to an arrest, the recovery of weapons, narcotics, stolen property or the capture of a wanted fugitive.

Crimestoppers can be reached 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by phone, web site or mobile app. Officials say the following is an easy way to remember how to get in touch with them:

Talk, Type, Tap your tip to East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers 

Talk – 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) 

Type – 

Tap – Download the free “P3 Tips” mobile app 

The Web site also features information about unsolved cases and people who are currently wanted by the law.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at 

Published on May 12, 2021