JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It has been five days since 13-year-old Prince Holland was gunned down inside an SUV in Northwest Jacksonville while riding home from football tryouts.
The driver and an 11-year-old in the SUV were also wounded but are expected to be OK.
Since the drive-by shooting, First Coast Crime Stoppers has received only three tips from the public about the investigation.
Executive Director Wyllie Hodges wants to assure the public their tip(s) will remain 100% anonymous.
Hodges acknowledges there may be some people who are hesitant to call First Coast Crime Stoppers out of concerns that their name might become public. Hodges said that will never happen.
“We don’t know who you are. We don’t want to know who you are. You won’t go to court. You won’t be subpoenaed,” he explained.
Hodges said when a call or email is reported to First Coast Crime Stoppers, no one in the call center asks for the caller’s name. He said the caller is also reminded not to give it. The tipster is instead assigned a code number.
“They need to remember that code number and don’t share it with anyone,” he said. “That is the only way they can collect their reward money.”
First Coast Crime Stoppers does not have caller ID; it does not track the number the tipster used to call in their tip, said Hodges.
In fact, First Coast Crime Stoppers will never contact the tipster.
“They will call us once a week, and we will tell them the status of their tip,” he said.
Collecting the reward money is also anonymous. First Coast Crime Stoppers will direct the tipster to a bank.
“Use your code number, go through the drive-thru. You give the teller your code number and you’re paid in cash,” Hodges said. “You don’t have to go into the bank or give your name.”
The tipster is not given any timeline to collect the money. They can withdraw it when they want. The tipster does not have to wait for a conviction to collect the money, since a case can take months or even longer to work its way through the court system.
Hodges said the tip can be any information.
“If it leads to an arrest in the case, they get paid,” he said.
They are updated each week when they call us about the case. Some tips may be information police already knew, but he said, it could be that one piece of information that connects all the small details and leads to an arrest.
“Even tips that you think are trivial may be something major,” said Hodges.
He said the money is paid out as soon as the arrest happens.
“Call in whatever you’ve got. If it isn’t good, you shouldn’t be embarrassed, and you can’t be, we don’t even know who you are,” he added. ‘I’ve never paid out on any tip yet where the person came back and was not convicted.”
Hodges said he understands there might be members of the public, like the elderly, who are worried that a tip called in about a neighbor committing a crime might somehow come back on them and lead to violence. He said that’s why First Coast Crime Stoppers guarantees anonymity.
“A lot of people don’t like the police and they’re not going to call for that reason and it’s sad but true,” he said. “But if they’ve got the information, call us, and we will take care of everything from there. You have nothing to lose.”
Since its inception in 2005, First Coast Crime Stoppers has paid out $1,124,125. Even more has been approved, $1,735,655, but not everyone collects the reward. The tips have solved 127 murders during that time period. More than 8,000 cases have been cleared. Any crime, even misdemeanors, is included in the reward program.
Hodges said First Coast Crime Stoppers is not an investigative unit. It works with local, state and federal investigators by providing the tip information to the agencies investigating the particular crime connected to that tip. But, again, since Crime Stoppers does not know the identity of the tipster, who gave the information is not available to law enforcement.
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AJ Jordan, with MAD DADS, also encouraged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers, saying it is truly anonymous and you cannot be tracked by police even if your tip is valid.
“MAD DADS educates our community on Crime Stoppers and ensures them the information is safe, secure and no one will ever know that you called Crime Stoppers,” Jordan said.
There is currently a $9,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the shooting death of 13-year-old Holland.
He and three other players were riding home from football tryouts with a 21-year-old coach when someone pulled up to the intersection of Moncrief Road West and New Kings Road in Northwest Jacksonville and opened fire on their vehicle.
According to the driver’s attorney, the 21-year-old tried to shield the four children and was struck 10 times by bullets. As of Tuesday evening, the attorney said, the man was still in the hospital, and he is facing several surgeries.
An 11-year-old boy was also shot in the drive-by, but he is expected to be OK.
The other two boys, ages 14 and 15, were uninjured.
Holland died of his injuries. He is the 11th child to die from gun violence this year in Jacksonville.
To report a tip to First Coast Crime Stoppers you can call 1-866-845-TIPS (8477) or **TIPS, which works through the state of Florida. You can email a tip to fccrimestoppers.com or you can report a tip through the app P-3, which is free to download. First Coast Crime Stoppers serves Duval, Baker, Nassau, Bradford, Union and Clay counties.