Two crime fighting organizations are at odds over a nominal fee criminals would have to pay. The $20 Crimestoppers fee is not being tacked on by the State Attorney's Office for cases settled outside of court.
Crimestoppers has two sources of funding, donations made by law abiding citizens and fees collected by the Clerk of Courts; state statute requires it. But as News 13 learned, more and more cases are being handled outside of court.
In 2012, 3,069 pre-trial interventions took place in Bay County. According to the office of the clerk of courts, PTI's increased more than 3000% since 2007.
The State Attorney's Office says diversion programs helps to keep the records of first time minor offenders clean. They also free up the docket.
However, because of the amount of PTI's taking place, Crimestoppers budget was slashed 50%, from roughly $111,000 to $62,000. A majority of the organization's revenues are generated from the $20 fee collected by the court.
In a letter to Mr. Norm Gulkis, the president of the Panhandle Crimestoppers, State Attorney Glenn Hess said "This office does not have statutory authority to collect funds and distribute them to other entities."
News 13 contacted the State Attorney's offices in Leon and Sarasota counties and they are charging the $20 for Crimestoppers through their diversion programs.
Gulkis also told News 13, more was disclosed by Hess during a private conversation. "He said if we do it for you, we would have to do it for other agencies."
Gulkis continues to say "Hess' office is all about fighting crime. I don't know what the other agencies do. But I would think that we should be hand in hand with the State Attorney's office and he should support us."
Statute does not require the State Attorney's office to assess the fee on intervention programs, but it doesn't prohibit them from doing so.