Hancock Deputy is Coast Crime Stoppers’ Top Cop
By Dwayne Bremer
Apr 8, 2014, 19:34
The officers are pictured with Sheriff Ricky Adam, WPD Chief David Allen, and BPD Assistant Chief Christine DeBouchel.
Hancock County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Betha on Tuesday was named the Mississippi Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers Officer of the Year for his "heroic" actions last December in the case of an abduction and sexual assault of two children.
The Coast Crime Stoppers group is made up of 26 law enforcement agencies from Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Stone, George, and Greene counties.
On Tuesday, the group held its fourth annual law enforcement appreciation breakfast at the Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi.
The event began with a moving tribute to military veterans by Iwo Jima Reenactment Team of Birmingham.
Later, officers from the 26 agencies were recognized for being nominated by their respective departments for officer of the year consideration.
"Heroes' wear uniforms," guest speaker David McElreath said Tuesday. "Law enforcement officers provide a critical service, but they are often under-appreciated, under-paid, and over-stressed. We are here to recognize some of you, but across the state, there are hundreds who go unrecognized every day for their valor."
Candidates for officer of year were nominated from the 26 agencies.
Of the 26 candidates, a officer of the year was chosen from each respective county and a state and federal officer.
Three officers were nominated from Hancock County: Betha, Det. Don Gray from the Bay St. Louis Police Department and officer Mike Prendergast from the Waveland Police Department.
Gray was named the Hancock County Officer of the year for his actions during and after the arrest of a sex offender suspect in February.
In the state category, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) Agent Ian Estorffe was named the officer of the year for state agencies.
Estorffe, a former Bay St. Louis patrolman and narcotics investigator, has been with MBN for about a decade.
He was credited with spearheading an investigation which busted a major methamphetamine ring operating in Hancock County in 2013.
The bust has resulted in five federal indictments so far.
Finally, Betha was named as the overall Officer of the Year for South Mississippi.
Betha, a patrol sergeant with the sheriff's office, was the first to respond to a call in December in which a Pearl River County man allegedly kidnapped two boys; drove them to a trailer in Leetown; cut one of the children's throat and sexually assaulted the other.
Betha was able to prevent the suspect, James H. Smith, from leaving and secured the two children until more help arrived.
"We are extremely proud of Tom and all of our patrol deputies," Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said Tuesday. "Tom does a fine job and when he was put in this situation, he performed without hesitation."
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Crime Stoppers group is part of the nationwide Crime Stoppers organization.
Crime Stoppers assists law enforcement agencies with resources and information and offers rewards to citizens who call in tips that lead to arrests.
Coast Crime Stoppers Chairman Mike May said Tuesday that the Gulf Coast office has received about 500 tips in the past six months that have been forwarded to law enforcement.
Many of the tips have resulted in arrests.
Officials said tips can be made anonymously at Crime Stoppers by calling 1-877-787-5898.