Florida's inmate population is a potential gold mine of information on unsolved crimes, and state officials hope to tap in to it.
Starting July 1, a new anonymous tipline will give the state's 100,356 prisoners an opportunity to report information on unsolved crimes and may even have a chance to earn a reward.
"There is a wealth of information here and we've created a mechanism to capture it," said Ken Tucker, Secretary of the Department of Corrections. "We owe it to the public and the victims to collaborate."
The Florida Department of Corrections teamed up with CrimeWatch to create the equivalent of the anonymous tipline citizens use to report information on crimes.
In Central Florida, the anonymous tipline Crimeline has helped solve numerous crimes including the April shooting and burning deaths of Winter Park High School students 16-year-old Nicholas Presha and 18-year-old Jeremy Stewart.
State corrections employees will use posters to announce the new tipine and have created a video about the program that all incoming prisoners will be required to watch at the start of his or her prison sentence, Tucker said.
The program will be available in state correctional facilities, but not in county jails, Tucker said.
The new initiative is three-prong and will also include outreach to people who are on probation and the community.
The Department of Corrections has created a top 10 fugitives list that includes five escapees and five people who have skipped out on probation and a new toll-free number for tips. Billboards around the state will have information about the men on the top 10 list.
"This is hugely successful in Texas," said Crimeline director Barb Bergin. "They are capturing people left and right."
Bergin hopes Florida will see similar results.
Probation officers around the state will give information about the tipline programs to the felons they supervise. Citizens can also give tips about the fugitives at 1-888-951-2411.
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