Crime Solvers posts record

MANASSAS — The residents of Manassas have helped make their city a safer place.

Through the city police department’s Crime Solvers program, tips from anonymous residents led to 18 criminal arrests in 2001, the most in one year since the program began in 1987, said Sgt. Marc J. Woolverton, a Manassas police spokesman.

The citizen-informant system also led to the recovery of approximately $260,500 in property, Woolverton added.

“This is the most successful year we’ve ever had,” Woolverton said Wednesday. “Crime Solvers provides citizens a risk-free opportunity to give evidence to police and use an avenue without the police knowing who they are.”

And, as Woolverton said, it gives witnesses an opportunity to make some money as well.

Those with information can be compensated up to $1,000 by anonymously calling a tip line with information that leads to an arrest in an unsolved crime.

Last year, the Board of Directors of the Manassas City Crime Solvers, the organization that oversees the system, authorized $3,400 in rewards.

But most importantly, Crime Solvers provides police countless sets of eyes and ears in places where the force cannot always monitor, said Manassas Police Chief John J. Skinner.

“Crime Solvers is an integral part of our community-policing initiatives,” Skinner said. “[It is] a true police-community partnership that provides valuable information to investigators. While I haven’t had the time to gauge the success against other comparable jurisdictions, I am very confident that we are head and shoulders more successful.”

Crime Solvers is a nationwide program operated on the local level, Woolverton said. The service, which is entirely funded by community contributions, began in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1978 and proved so successful that it was adopted by police forces across the United States and the world, Skinner added.

When an unsolved crime is made a Crime Solvers case, the police ask local newspapers to describe the situation and list the phone number and e-mail address where those with information can report it.

From those calls, Skinner said, the police often find leads and ultimately, arrest suspects.

Skinner said that a series of Crime Solvers tips last summer led to four arrests in a weeklong string of armed robberies, resulting in the conviction of Cornelius Harris on a number of counts, including robbery. Harris, who is expected to get a lengthy prison stay, will be sentenced in the next couple of months, police said.

“I’d say that was the Crime Solvers conviction I’m most proud of,” Skinner said. “A couple of the robberies included pistol-whipping, so that greatly alarmed us and the community.”

Skinner also encouraged anyone with information on a Crime Solvers case to call the 24-hour confidential tip line at (703) 330-0330. Tips may also be left at

Staff writer Adam H. Beasley can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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