St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Crime Stoppers hotline open

Callers can earn up to $1,000 for a tip leading to a conviction. Don't worry, all tips are kept confidential.

Published November 17, 2005

BROOKSVILLE - Six hours after introducing Hernando County's Crime Stoppers hotline, the Sheriff's Office already had its first tip.

Deputy Donna Black, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office and an adviser to the program, could not comment on the nature of the tip.

"It's anonymous and confidential," she said.

That's the whole point.

The Crime Stoppers hotline, activated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, allows tipsters to talk with a live operator who is independent of the Sheriff's Office or any other law enforcement agency.

The number is (352) 797-TIPS (8477). It offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to a conviction.

The program has about $25,000 in its coffers, raised from fees paid by convicted criminals and assets seized from drug dealers, according to Sheriff Richard B. Nugent.

Before Crime Stoppers, the Sheriff's Office tip line was just an answering machine that deputies would check once a day. It netted few tips.

"We've wanted to do this since I took office, but it was a matter of getting a community board together," he said.

The board consists of nine members who will administer the program. They range in experience from a seasoned former police officer to the owner of a local Sir Speedy.

Curtis J. Reeves worked for years with the Tampa Police Department and then became director of security at Busch Gardens in Tampa. He recently moved to Hernando County and is now a member of the Crime Stopper board.

"This is just a tool in law enforcement's toolbox to help make society a safer place to live," he said. "I think every county needs this."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.