Lake Tahoe Secret Witness Program

Program History

In 1980 the Secret Witness Program was formed as a result of the death of teenager Richard E. Swanson, Richard was killed during a robbery of a South Lake Tahoe gas station. Businesses and citizens raised nearly $10,000 as reward information to an arrest of Richard's killer.

This tragedy created the base for what has become a very successful law enforcement tool in South Lake Tahoe and surrounding communities. Since 1980, the program's directors, with the support and blessing of Richard's parents, have solicited the support of the South Lake Tahoe businesses and individuals to make the rewards more appealing to potential anonymous tipsters.


Because Sheriff's Deputies are often unable to know everything that is going on in the community, citizen participation in law enforcement and crime prevention is crucial. The Secret Witness Program is designed to provide incentives to community members for becoming involved in crime prevention and resolution.

Citizens are offered opportunities to make the community a safer place to live by becoming involved in crime prevention. Besides making a positive contribution to the community individuals can enjoy some monetary reward for their efforts thanks to the Secret Witness Program.

How the Program Works

The Secret Witness Program relies on the anonymous tips of the community members. When a citizen or visitor to the community becomes aware of a criminal activity, the individual can make an anonymous phone call to a 24-hour, 7-days a weeks hotline and provide the information.

The information is then sent to the law enforcement agency responsible for acting on the tip. The agency checks up on the tip, and if the tip leads to an arrest of a criminal then the individual who offered the tip is contacted and offered a reward. The rewards vary depending on the value of the information. The more valuable the information, the bigger the reward.

Reward money is drawn from a pot that is funded by donations from local businesses and individuals. Secret Witness funds are disbursed and monitored by a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of the Lake Tahoe Community members. The funds in the Secret Witness program are used to pay for information leading to arrest of suspects or the recovery of property.

How to Become a Secret Witness (Lake Tahoe Area only)

To become a secret witness please call the Secret Witness Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at: (530) 541-6800.


To make a tax-deductible contribution to the program, please write:

Secret Witness
P.O. Box 14282
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151