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How does Crime Stoppers work? We take you inside the NYPD unit

NEW YORK — It all begins with a simple phone call, inside a windowless room at One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan.

The NYPD Crime Stoppers Unit is staffed by 13 seasoned detectives who answer calls from New Yorkers offering tips on criminal cases that happened somewhere in the five boroughs.

In fact, you have probably heard or read about the call to action right here on PIX11, with the familiar Crime Stoppers hotline number: 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).

Many of you have answered that request for help.

By the numbers, Crime Stoppers tips have helped solve more than 1,400 killings over the course of 35 years. Overall, more than $2 million in reward money has been given out.

Recently, so many New Yorkers answered the call for help in the heinous murder of 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz in the Bronx that Crime Stoppers needed help of its own.

"The tips we got were outstanding," said Lt. Marc Moreno, who leads the unit. "In this case, not only did we get calls, we had people sending in video and that video was very important in setting up a timeline."

Hundreds of tips came in from people looking to see "Justice for Junior" — a rallying cry shared widely on social media after the teen's stabbing death on June 20. Twelve alleged gang members were eventually arrested.

"We had to bring in additional detectives because the phones would just not stop ringing," Moreno described. "That is a credit to the community."

There is absolutely no catch when Crime Stoppers say the calls are anonymous, according to members of the unit.

Here is how it works: When you call, you are given a code, which becomes your identification. If you qualify for the reward being offered, you take that code to a bank to collect your money. It does not even have to be the person who has the code that goes to collect the money.

The money is raised and collected by the New York Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization aiming to improve public safety in the city.

Oftentimes, officials say people phoning in tips don't even care about the reward.

"That really shows you the people are calling because they care," said Susan Birnbaum, who is the president and CEO of the New York Police Foundation. "They want to help crimes and that is where the program is really successful."

The phone lines are open 24/7.

The bottom line, police say, is that as long as there is crime, there will be the Crime Stoppers unit working alongside you for safer communities.