Bill Brownell, founder of WeTip, a national hot line that helped pioneer toll-free crime-fighting, died of complications related to emphysema on May 13 at his home in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He was 71.
Mr. Brownell, a retired deputy, and his wife created WeTip in 1972 after hearing their teenagers talk about how easy it was for their friends to buy drugs. When his wife, Miriam, asked why they didn't report the dealers to the sheriff, they said: ''You want our friends to think we're snitches?"
The idea for a telephone tip line, 800-78-CRIME, which required callers to remain anonymous, was born. If a caller tries to give a name, the call is terminated; only the unidentified can avoid being subpoenaed to testify. WeTip assigns codes to identify those interested in receiving rewards. Over 33 years, almost $1 million has been awarded.