The large yellow letters on a black background demand attention.
"Listen!!!" the billboard message blares. "Orange County: If you ignore the plague of this county--Crime--our children will not have a future. Get involved now! Help reduce the causes of guns, gangs and graffiti. Call 1-800-78-CRIME."
California Atty. Gen. Daniel E. Lungren joined local law enforcement officials and dignitaries Thursday to kick off a campaign designed to get more people involved in reporting crimes and assisting law officers. In the next week, the message will be posted on 100 billboards and 100 more bus stop shelters in the county.
"Law enforcement needs community support, perhaps now more than ever," Lungren said during a ceremony outside Santa Ana City Hall. "That's a direct goal of this campaign."
The campaign is the latest sparked by businessman Robert Acosta, known for his anti-graffiti ad campaign of last year, which included billboards and messages beamed in Santa Ana from the Goodyear blimp.
Acosta and his Newport Beach public relations firm raised about $25,000 through private donations to design and produce the new billboards. Advertising and media companies donated the billboard and bus shelter space.
"It's not costing the taxpayers one penny," said Acosta, a former public relations officer with the Santa Ana Police Department. "This problem of guns, gangs and graffiti is a major one in this county. What we have to do is bring everyone together and work together."
"We're trying to make a difference because crime is the concern of every American."
The billboards and bus stop shelters carry the toll-free crime hot line of WeTip Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and reducing crime. The 22-year-old company operates a 24-hour bilingual hot line for reporting criminal activity anonymously, offering rewards of up to $1,000.
WeTip, which forwards 500 to 1,000 tips to law enforcement agencies nationwide each day, added five operators for the new Orange County campaign alone, bringing local staff to about 60, said Bill Brownell, founder and chief executive officer of the organization.
Lungren and other officials at Thursday's ceremony called the campaign a model for public and private partnerships. "I don't think there's any doubt this helps," Lungren said.
The campaign will include radio and television ads and opportunities for sponsors. For more information on the campaign, contact Robert Acosta & Associates at (714) 252-5474.