Governor Crist's Crime Prevention Priorities

Governor Charlie Crist has run out of money. So, as part of his proposed 2008-09 fiscal budget, Crist called for the transfer of more than $740 million from various trust funds to the state’s general revenue fund. This includes $5 million of the $7 million Crimestoppers Trust Fund in Manatee County. Both the Manatee Crimestoppers and Manatee County Sheriff are against Crist’s plans to take that funding for the state’s general revenue fund saying it ‘will hurt its ability to curb crime through anonymous informants.’

About the program in Manatee County, Steve Rowland, president of Crimestoppers in both Manatee County and statewide said this about the governor’s plans.

‘It really hurt us to see that the governor would come after our program,’ said Steve Rowland, president of Crimestoppers in both Manatee County and statewide. ‘A program that is proven to improve our safety and security by getting criminals and drugs off the street.’

Since the 1970s, Crimestoppers has provided an avenue for citizens to call in anonymous tips to law enforcement to report criminal activity, Rowland said.

Any tip that generates an arrest can lead to a reward of as much as $1,000.

Over the years, Rowland said, tips coming in through Crimestoppers have led to $44 million in drugs seized, $16 million in property recovered and 24,000 arrests.

A compelling reason not to cut the program, which is the way Crimestoppers and the sheriff portray the consequences of the governor’s request. However, the governor’s office says

taking the $5 million would still leave $2 million in the trust fund, allowing Crimestoppers to continue to operate at its current funding level.

If the governor’s response is correct, then Manatee ought to be able to continue to do well the ‘same as last year’ funding. If crime goes out of control, then maybe they need the National Guard instead. If we are to believe Sheriff Brad Steube and Crimestoppers, that it will be like removing a tool to fight crime, and will hurt their ability to fight it ‘through anonymous informants,’ then it seems the governor has his crime fighting priorities upside down.

And if this doesn’t work, how long before Governor Crist looks for more and higher taxes?

related link: Bradenton Herald