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Published: Wednesday, 4/19/2006

Crime Stopper little used but called a valuable tool

WAUSEON Twice a month, Fulton County sheriff s deputies distribute 90 copies of their latest request for tips on an unsolved crime, called Crime Stopper, to be posted in police departments, restaurants, businesses, and other public places.

It s an exercise that requires considerable hope and patience.

The program, begun in 1984 in Fulton County, has sometimes gone for more than a year without receiving a tip that the board decided was worth a cash reward. It has never paid the maximum $1,000 for a tip; the highest single reward has been $500 and that has happened only once.

In fact, over its more than 20 years, the county s Crime Stopper program has paid out a total of $6,125 to 37 people, much of it in $100 rewards.

But Sheriff Darrell Merillat said tips the program has picked up have sometimes given local authorities leads when they had no suspects whatsoever. Other times calls to the Crime Stopper line at 1-800-255-1122 have provided bits of information that backed up what authorities were piecing together.

Typically the program publicizes burglaries, thefts, and vandalism. But it has also called for information on rapes and homicides.

In Fulton County, the Crime Stopper fund has $1,003 enough for one maximum reward. Crime Stopper, which does not receive taxpayer money for tip payouts, was started with donations from individuals and businesses.

The story is similar in surrounding rural counties. In Williams County, a total of $500 was paid out last year for tips that led to four arrests. But several tipsters eligible for rewards have never claimed them in Williams program that started in 2002.

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