First in a series on local law enforcement efforts to lower burglary numbers that have climbed in a down economy.
In the continuing battle against a climbing burglary rate, Hall County Sheriff’s officials are hoping cash can loosen some lips.
On Friday, the sheriff’s office announced its new Bounty for Burglars program, which offers up to $1,000 for information leading to the
arrests of burglars and recovery of stolen items.
Officials hope the new program will prove as successful as $200 rewards offered for information about drugs in Hall County schools. More than $6,000 has been paid out of that fund in the last three years.
The Bounty for Burglars reward fund comes from the seizure of cash and assets from drug dealers and does not involve tax dollars, Chief Deputy Col. Jeff Strickland said.
“Different individuals have different motivations, and sometimes that’s cash,” Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said.
The rewards program is part of the agency’s 2010 burglary action plan, which includes some initiatives that have not yet started.
Strickland said while the office’s response to last year’s 23 percent increase in burglaries was effective in the short term, round-up operations that took deputies from divisions outside uniform patrol and put them on the streets were not sustainable.
“For 2010, the key element was doing something we could sustain,” Strickland said.
Hall County has a tip line, 770-503-3232, but has not previously offered cash rewards regularly, with the exception of the school program, which is co-funded by the Hall County school system.
In Georgia, rewards that can reach $50,000 or more are routinely offered in unsolved murders, but are rarely collected.
The sheriff’s criminal investigations commander, Capt. Woodrow Tripp, said offering money for information in burglary cases is different.
“When you’re talking about a homicide, people are fearful for their anonymity, whereas with something like this, people are more willing to offer information,” Tripp said.
The sheriff’s office has already paid out one reward this month in a case that led to a burglary arrest, Tripp said.
There is currently no cap in how many rewards the sheriff’s office will give out this year. Authorities say they will protect the identity of anyone who provides information.
Sheriff’s officials said the new burglary action plan has gotten off to a good start, with a banner month in February that saw 16 burglary arrests by the criminal investigations division.
“This plan we’ve put together, and the execution of it so far, has been very encouraging,” Cronic said.
The reward program is just another piece of the plan, officials say.
“If it leads to arrests and recovery of property, then it’s money well-invested,” Cronic said.