Turning in a fugitive will be as easy as picking up the telephone under a program launched yesterday by the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Department.
Dubbing the program, "You Call, We Haul," Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack said the tip line, used in 14 states, will help his deputies make a dent in the 10,000 open arrest warrants in the county.
"We are going to put these people where they belong -- behind bars," Sheriff Pepersack said during a news conference on the steps of the Circuit Courthouse, flanked by half dozen uniformed deputy sheriffs.
"We are going to put some time and effort into this," the sheriff said, adding that the recorded tip line already has gotten some messages -- one with a tip on a suspect who the department had arrested just the night before.
People who wish to call the tip line dial 1-800-451-TIPS, from anywhere in Anne Arundel County.When asked for a code, dial 410 and then leave a message on the machine.
Once the message has been entered, a machine will beep in the sheriff's office at the courthouse, and the deputies can listen to the recording. No name is required or requested.
Sheriff Pepersack said Anne Arundel became the first county on the East Coast to join the service, called the Nationwide Toll Free Crime Information Tip Line Network. "Somebody has to be first," he said.
It costs the county $35 a month for the service, and the sheriff said it is well worth the money.
"We don't expect to score 100 percent with this," said Lt. Charles E. Nelson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. "It is just another way that the community can come forward and give us information.
"A lot of people are scared to come forward," Lieutenant Nelson said. "They don't even like to call from a regular phone."
The lieutenant said he was skeptical last year when the department started taping an "Anne Arundel County Most Wanted," which appears regularly on a local cable television station. But since it first aired, the department has made 150 fugitive arrests.
"It made a cynic like me a believer," Lieutenant Nelson said, explaining that the 10,000 warrants include people who do not live in Anne Arundel and individuals wanted on multiple charges.
Tips received on the line about a current crime or drug activity will be turned over to the county police, said the sheriff, who has urged citizens to turn in "deadbeat dads," fathers wanted for not paying child support.
Sheriff Pepersack said people forget how much it costs law enforcement officers to find fugitives and the cost of crimes committed while the guilty roam free.
"They say it costs $30,000 a year to keep someone in jail, but they fail to say that we pay $250,000 a year to keep wanted people on the street -- not to mention all the crime victims out there," he said. "We work for the good people, not the bad."