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TIPs hotline receiving fewer calls, leading to higher percentage of arrests

Fewer people are reporting game violations to the Turn in Poachers hotline than average, but a higher percentage of calls are resulting in successful arrests.

(TIPs South Dakota Turn In Poachers photo)
(TIPs South Dakota Turn In Poachers photo)

Fewer people are reporting game violations to the Turn in Poachers hotline than average, but a higher percentage of calls are resulting in successful arrests.

According to a recent report from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, there were 213 investigations that came from South Dakota's TIPs hotline (1-888-OVERBAG) during the 2014 TIPs year, which ran from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.

The 10-year average of number of investigations called in to the TIPs hotline is 391, while the 20-year average is about 400.

"I don't know the rationale for that, but the calls we are getting are great information," said Andy Alban, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department's law enforcement program administrator.

Last year's 213 investigations led to 126 arrests and $18,558 in fines distributed by judges. Both of those numbers are up from 2013, when there were 170 investigations-a 20-year low mark-and 89 arrests.

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Last year, the 126 arrests made from the 213 investigations was a success rate of 59 percent. In the past decade, about 33 percent of investigations have led to arrests.

"Some people believe calls are based upon what the game population is or how many people are hunting in the state," Alban said. "But that's all subjective. It's hard to exactly put your thumb on it."

South Dakota's TIPs hotline has been around since 1984. The group is a private, non-profit organization run by Wildlife Protection Inc. It is funded through donations from the big-game license application check-off, private and individual donations and through court-ordered restitution.

From 1984 through 2014, 10,845 investigations have led to 3,761 arrests and $719,925 in fines. The TIPs program also issues awards to people who report law-breakers and has paid out $156,940 in its history.

Last year, $30,100 was paid in liquidated civil damages, and about $566,000 has been paid in the program's history.

Liquidated civil damages are the fines beyond the criminal penalty, which are mandated by state law against anyone who illegally takes wildlife. Alban referred to it like "a wildlife replacement fee."

"The program gets great support," Alban said. " A lot of times, citizens are not interested in a reward. They're just interested in others gaining compliance with the laws and getting justice."

A few notable cases from the last TIPs program year:

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• July 2014: Potter County-Two suspects with 82 walleye over limit-$132 in total fines, $8,200 civil damages and three-year fishing revocations.

• August 2014: Lawrence County-Two suspects with 113 trout over limit-$1,000 fines and fishing revocations for one year.

• October 2014: Pennington County-Two suspects-lending license, no license, chasing antelope-$668 fines and hunting revocations for one year.

• October 2014: Pennington County-One suspect-illegally possessed elk shot from road-$529 fines and hunting revocation for one year.

• October 2014: Codington County-Spotlighting case that turned into DUI, reckless driving and possession of firearm while intoxicated - $620 fines.

• November 2014: Brown County-Suspect shooting deer from vehicle and trespassing-$660 fines and hunting revocation for one year.

• November 2014: Meade County-Deer trespass investigation that led to charges for two suspects for no license and lending-$968 fines and hunting revocations for one year.

• December 2014: Ziebach County-One suspect in deer case trespassing, no license, closed season, shooting from vehicle and chasing with vehicle-$724 fines, $1,000 civil damages, hunting revocation for one year.

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• December 2014: Union County-One suspect in deer case trespassing, closed season and unlawful possession-$384 fines, $2,500 civil damages for trophy whitetail and three days in jail.

• June 2015: Lyman County-Two suspects with 10 walleye over limit-$632 fines, $500 civil damages and fishing revocations for one year.

• June 2015: Sully County-Two suspects with 24 walleye over limit-$1,132 fines, $4,000 civil damages and fishing revocations for one year.

Related Topics: HUNTINGFISHING
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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