Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget will cut $4.5 million from Crime Stoppers

11:05 AM, Apr 4, 2011   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - It's a program that's led to 44,501 arrests, 80,690 cleared cases and 347,122 anonymous tips.

But if Gov. Rick Scott has his way, Crime Stoppers of Florida could be going away.

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Scott's proposed budget includes taking $4.5 million from the Crime Stoppers Trust Fund and moving it to general revenue.

"If that trust fund were to be totally swept to zero, it would devastate Crime Stoppers throughout the state of Florida," said Lisa Haber of Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay.

Haber says that without that funding Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay would be able to keep its tipline, but only for about a year.  And all other outreach programs would have to stop.

What's confusing to Haber is why Gov. Scott would propose the change in the first place.

That $4.5 million isn't tax dollars. It's part of court fees, paid for by people who are found guilty or plead no contest, and it's protected under Florida Statute 938.

"We don't know why [Gov. Scott proposed the change].  We do know that he and his staff are somewhat new to government," Haber said. "We're looking at it more from the aspect of maybe a lack of familiarity with how the money comes about."

Crime Stoppers of Florida has spent the last two months sending biweekly newsletters to legislators, urging them to vote against the change.

The effort appears to be working.

Both the Florida House and Senate have released their budgets online, which show the $4.5 million staying with Crime Stoppers.

Legislators will most likely vote on the budget in early May, near the end of the session.

After that, Gov. Scott has about a month to approve the changes.

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