88-CRIME handling hundreds of tips for Isabel Celis case

88-CRIME handling hundreds of tips for Isabel Celis case

CREATED Apr 27, 2012

Reporter:  Jessica Chapin

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - Police are following hundreds of tips to try and find missing 6-year-old Isabel Celis.  Most of those tips are called into the police department or the 88-CRIME hotline.  9 On Your Side got an inside look as operators respond to calls about the case.

"When it comes to something like this with a child I don't care your political affiliation, your religion, whatever it is, most people are going to have a feeling that this little girl needs to be found," said 88-CRIME director Susie Dupnik.  The center has handled 40 tips for the Isabel Celis case, forwarding every shred of evidence to the Tucson Police Department.

Dupnik says the community support has been overwhelming, with donors boosting the reward to $22 thousand.  One individual gave as much as $5 thousand towards finding the little girl. 

Meanwhile, the center's two operators work to keep tips coming to TPD.  Elizabeth Lahrman has worked there for 16 years, and says this case is familiar.  She answered tips for the case of Karen Grajeda, a Tucson seven-year-old who went missing in 1996, and was never found.  Lahrman says then, they were hand-writing tips and turning them into police.  Now, tips are submitted immediately online, or via text message.

Even with her experience, Lahrman says not every phone call is easy.

"We've spoken to people who are actually crying when they call in.  I'm sure it hits home to them.  I think they're a little anxious," she said, "It's hard but we have to stay focused."

operators don't judge whether or not a tip is relevant.  They forward all information to police, and they emphasize callers may not know which piece of the puzzle they hold.  Anyone with any information is urged to come forward.

Anyone can call Crimestoppers at 88-CRIME, or click here to submit a form online.  Anyone can also text their tip to 274637 and enter "Tip259" with the message.