By: Anna Crane
Last Wednesday, the Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner published a 40-page magazine-style insert from the local Crime Stoppers organization which listed the names and charges of 6,000 suspects wanted in Marion County (Fla.) As a result, 99 warrants have been issued.
“Ninety-nine wanted persons had been located through the tips so far,” said Robert Hauck, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Marion County. “We feel that’s a pretty good number and we expect that number to go up as this issue is re-circulated around the county.”
Every two to four years Crime Stoppers publishes a list like this in the Star Banner, and responses are generally high, said Hauck. Crime Stoppers is a national organization with local affiliates that serve to help law enforcement agencies, primarily through anonymous tip-lines.
The insert, which cost $11,000 for forty pages of listings and photos, was funded through a grant issued by the Florida Attorney General’s office drawn from fees collected by county clerks from criminals upon their arrest.
While the insert is treated essentially like a regular advertisement by the Star-Banner, the paper’s advertising and design staff worked directly with the sheriff’s office to get it published in the Sept. 28 issue with only 10 days of production time. (In order to receive its funding, Crime Stoppers had to meet the Attorney General’s guidelines and print the insert by October 1.)
Detective Sargent Scott Patch, the coordinator between the sheriff’s office and Crime Stoppers of Marion County, went directly to the Star-Banner’s advertising staff with the project.
“They had done this for us before and knew kind of what we wanted,” he said. “I worked directly with the layout staff to design the cover and make sure we complied with the attorney general’s guidelines.”
Hauck says that the paper was extremely cooperative and essential to the success of the program.
“The newspaper is very helpful, believe me,” stressed Hauck. “The Ocala star banner pulled out all stops to cooperate with us. It was a monumental project. Those people, from top to bottom, were monumentally cooperative.”
For a list of 6,000 suspects, a lot of time and effort is spent by the sheriff’s office to make sure that every bit of information is accurate — Patch said that each name on the list was hand-checked. Even so, as every paper knows, some mistakes are likely. The sheriff’s office has received a few phone calls from individuals saying that the wanted suspects were deceased, said Patch.
Sometimes, said Patch, people don’t even know there is a warrant out for their arrest because they have moved and have not been served with the warrant. When they see their name in the paper, they want to get it cleared up and turn themselves in. There have been at least a few instances like this from the Star-Banner’s insert, although the sheriff’s office says that it has not kept count.
Star-Banner Publisher Allen Parsons said that the project was a benefit for everyone involved: “I would say it was very effective from the perspective of the sheriff?s office, from the perspective of Crime Stoppers, and for the community as well.”