Crime Stoppers' Big Tip 

Sheriff's office gives program $20,000 from drug-seizure funds

The Shelby County Sheriff's office already uses criminals' money to help catch other criminals. Now they're sharing that wealth with Crime Stoppers.

Last week, Sheriff Mark Luttrell presented a $20,000 check to Memphis Crime Stoppers from their Drug Seizure Fund, money confiscated in drug crimes.

"We primarily use the money for equipment [for the Narcotics Unit] -- that encompasses cars and radios -- with direct crime-fighting implications," said Steve Shular, the sheriff's office public information officer. "The sheriff has a strong belief that since the federal government lets us give a small amount of that money to programs that fight crime, or provide drug treatment or drug education, the money needs to be reinvested in fighting crime."

Crime Stoppers is run through donations from government agencies and private interests. Recently, however, the organization has seen a reduction in grant funding and asked the sheriff's department if there was any way it could help.

But while the department didn't have any extra money in its taxpayer-funded general budget, under federal guidelines it can give away up to 15 percent of its drug-seizure money to certain programs. Shular said a single drug stop can yield hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Obviously, we need equipment. If we stop someone, we need a way to test for drugs," said Shular. "The sheriff thought it would work well because it would not cost anything to the taxpayers. ... A lot of crimes are solved by informants and the informants say, 'Pay up.'"

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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