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New $1.50 ticket fee boosts Crimestoppers

County, municipal and justice court fees increased by $1.50 thismonth under a new law to fund Crimestoppers.

Senate Bill 2481, which passed in March, allows counties andcities to pass legislation increasing fines by up to $2 to fundCrimestoppers, a program designed to aid law enforcement efforts byrewarding anonymous tips from citizens about a crime.

“It allows any county or municipality that has Crimestoppers oris thinking of starting a program a means to fund it,” saidMargaret Cooper, Crimestoppers Mississippi state director and thenational president of Crimestoppers USA. “Crimestoppers is the mostcost effective way to catch the bad guys.”

The fee can be added to any county, municipal or justice courtfine other than parking fees or registration, Cooper said.

Lincoln County has authorized a fee of $1.50, according to BeckyBoyte, Crimestoppers coordinator for the sheriff’s office.

The fee will go to the Department of Public Safety Planning andeach Crimestoppers program must request their portion of the moneyfrom them, Cooper said.

The program will benefit existing programs, she said, bysupplying them with a replenishing source of revenue, but it is thenew programs that will benefit the most.

“Programs that are just starting typically have rewards to payand no funds,” Cooper said. “This should help them meet thoseneeds.”

Another part of the bill provides a second method to generaterevenue.

“This bill also allows county and city boards to donate from theGeneral Fund to Crimestoppers,” she said, which they have not beenallowed to do in the past.

The bill, which went into effect July 1, had strong support inthe legislature, but took more than five years to pass. Cooper saidCrimestoppers had been trying to get the bill passed since 1996,when they established the state advisory council.

“It wasn’t getting rejected so much as it needed wording repairand rewriting so it fit all the legal aspects and ensured theprogram got what was best for them,” she said.

Crimestoppers rewards citizens for making anonymous tips about acrime. Callers call in, supply their information and receive a codenumber.

“It is the caller’s responsibility to check back on the case bysupplying the code number,” Cooper said.

Once an arrest and conviction are made in the case, if thecaller’s information was useful, a reward is authorized. The nexttime the caller calls in to check on the status they are told whichbank to visit. The bank is then given the code number, whichauthorizes the person who supplies the number to withdraw thereward.

“It’s not necessarily the caller who has to go into the bank, itcould be someone they trust,” Cooper said. “There is no better wayto ensure anonymity than this system.”

To report information about a crime to Crimestoppers, call823-0150.