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Published: Monday, 5/3/2004

New court fee might aid Crime Stoppers

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In hopes of increasing the amount of money it pays for tips, Crime Stoppers of Toledo, Inc., will ask the Lucas County commissioners tomorrow to add a $1 fee to all criminal cases in the county.

The commissioners were given the ability to approve the fee hike by a state law that took effect in April.

Organizers hope to be able to raise up to $35,000 annually, according to John Mason, chairman of Crime Stoppers.

"Even if we got just $20,000, it would help," said Mr. Mason, a former chief of Toledo police. "The board has for some time talked about increasing the amounts that have been paid."

"I think we're going to have to start paying more money, especially for the more publicized cases. Hopefully, that will help solve more crimes," Mr. Mason said.

The resolution the commissioners will consider would impose a $1 fee on all criminal cases in which a person pleads guilty or is convicted - except for traffic offenses - in the Lucas County Common Pleas Court or municipal court in the county.

The amount awarded to people who provide crime tips varies based on the individual crime. In March the program awarded $9,000, and in April $3,650 was distributed, Mr. Mason said.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said she favored the fee, but wants to get more information tomorrow.

"I think that there can be additional awareness brought to Crime Stoppers," she said. "I also think there could be an increase in the value of awards."

Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners, also backs the fee increase.

As the former Lucas County clerk of courts, Mr. Barlos said he's not sure it will generate a significant amount of money, but thought it might provide some help.

"I think the whole community should be involved in Crime Stoppers," he said. "I feel they've played a significant role over the years - they step forward and make funds available for our local police department."

Commissioner Maggie Thurber said that as a former Toledo municipal clerk of courts, she has some concerns about the fee assessment plan.

"My general philosophy is that the courts shouldn't be a collection point for every program that's added," she said.

Bernie Quilter, Lucas County clerk of courts, said he doesn't think the program would place a burden on his office.

Numerous court fees already are assessed for criminal cases, he said.

"It really isn't that big of a deal," he said. "We'll have to set up a couple of codes so we know where the dollar goes to," he said. "But it should generate the Crime Stoppers more money."

Mr. Quilter said court fees often go unpaid, so he's not sure how much money the program will yield for Crime Stoppers.



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