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Charges may fund Crime Stoppers

NATCHEZ — Up to $2 may soon be added to all fines associated with misdemeanor charges to help fight crime.

City Attorney Everett Sanders was instructed at the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s Dec. 14 meeting to draft an ordinance allowing the extra fees to fund Crime Stoppers.

“(Crime Stoppers) has been a very effective program to get info on crimes,” Police Chief Mike Mullins said.

Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for tips on crimes leading to arrests. The local agency operates for the Natchez Police Department, Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office and Vidalia Police Department.

Parking tickets and registration violations will be exempt from the ordinance, Mullins said.

Ward 2 Alderman James “Ricky” Gray, who is the chair of the police committee, made the motion directing Sanders to draft the ordinance.

Mullins said almost all of the funding from fees will be used as a reward to anonymous tippers for information on crimes that leads to an arrest.

The state will collect less than 1-percent of the extra fees for administrative costs, Mullins said. And besides reward money, the only expense for Crime Stoppers is a $60 monthly phone bill.

Mullins said fundraisers and donations currently fund Crime Stoppers.

“(The ordinance) will make it much easier to fund. It has been difficult to have enough fundraisers to be able to give a substantial reward,” Mullins said.

Mullins said being able to offer cash rewards affects how many tips law enforcement receives.

“Plenty of times we would not have had info if we did not have money to pay the informant,” Mullins said.

Mullins said tipsters are kept anonymous, even to law enforcement.

When a person calls Crime Stoppers, they are given an identification number by the dispatcher. When an arrest is made using the information, the caller is instructed to go through the drive-through of a local bank to collect the reward.

Mullins said reward amounts vary and are based on the seriousness of the crime and value of the information.

The proposed ordinance was made possible by a state statute created in 1992.

The statute allows for municipalities to collect a surcharge up to $2 on misdemeanor violations other than parking or registration offenses for the benefit of a local crime stopper agency. Crime Stoppers are otherwise unauthorized to receive funds under local and private legislation, the statute said.

The Mississippi Office of Public Safety Planning will collect the fees and administer them to the local Crime Stoppers fund if the ordinance gets passed.

Gray said the aldermen have not decided how much (up to $2) will actually be collected.

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