Crime Stoppers Merger Rebuffed 

Barnett is quick to point out he isn't insisting on a merger. The groups work well together, he says, always quick to exchange information when tips cross jurisdictional borders. And from an operational standpoint, he admits, it may be difficult to combine forces. "But it is probably worth talking about it," he says.

Chesterfield, however, doesn't see it that way. Col. Carl R. Baker, the county's chief of police, says there is no need for a merger. "We have a very successful program," he says. "Why fix it if it's not broken?"

Indeed, Chesterfield's Crime Solvers appears to be more sophisticated than the larger Crime Stoppers, which also partners with the counties of Hanover, Goochland, New Kent and Charles City. Chesterfield has an extensive school program — there are student-run Crime Solvers boards at all county middle schools and two high schools — and Baker has two officers working the Crime Solvers beat full time.

Last year, the Crime Solvers Web site netted 1.2 million hits, and this year is on pace to exceed those numbers, averaging 120,000 hits a month. And tips? Crime Solvers received 809 tips that led to 262 solved cases in 2004.

Crime Stoppers is manned by volunteers for 55 hours a week, and the rest of the time a "sworn officer" is there to answer the phone if it rings, says Barnett. But neither Henrico nor the city dedicates officers to Crime Stoppers full time. It has a school program, but it is not as extensive as Chesterfield's.

Crime Solvers shoots its own television commercials. Crime Stoppers uses ready-made videos provided by its nationally based parent, Crime Stoppers USA. (Crime Solvers is also a member of the national Crime Stoppers.)

"We have the same goals, no question about that," says Tom Hoof, president of Crime Solvers, which partners with Colonial Heights. "We just believe it should be separate at this time."

You can call Crime Stoppers at 780-1000. Crime Solvers can be reached at 748-0660. Both offer rewards of up to $1,000. — Scott Bass



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