"If we can sweeten the pot a little bit, it makes it easier for people to come forward," Cunningham said.
Washington County Crime Solvers, a volunteer organization, has been together since 1981, Cunningham said. The board of directors currently is made up of eight civilians and three area law enforcement officers - Maryland State Police Trooper Russ Plante, Detective George Brandt from the Hagerstown Police Department and Cpl. Roy Harsh from the Washington County Sheriff's Department. Cunningham said the board works closely with all three agencies.
Among the incidents in which Crime Solvers have given rewards for key information was a July 9, 2002, robbery at F&M Bank in Clear Spring.
Clear Spring resident Bob Davis and Anna Summers of Big Pool were rewarded by Crime Solvers for their aid in the arrest of a man charged with that armed bank robbery. Both received $100 for their assistance.
Cunningham said civilian involvement in the board of directors is key because they sometimes are most knowledgeable about what is going on in their neighborhoods.
"Civilians are the people we rely on for tips. So do the agencies," Cunningham said. "Heaven knows the police can't be everywhere."
Trooper Russ Plante said the main goal of Crime Solvers is to get criminals off the street. Plante said it might become difficult to offer rewards in the future unless more money is raised for the group. He said the reward fund pool has become severely depleted.
"One or two high-profile cases and we'd be at a dangerously low level," Plante said.
Plante said more serious, high-profile investigations including homicides, rapes or robberies including an injury can, at times, carry rewards of $1,000. He said it is the board's decision on the amount of the reward in each case.
Crime Solvers' telephone hot line number, 301-733-4141, can be called for more information about the group. Donations and rsums or letters from those interested in joining the board of directors can be sent to Washington County Crime Solvers, P.O. Box 994, Hagers-town, MD 21741.