WESTMINSTER -- Although Crime Solvers, the county's crime-solving hot line, went out of business last week, the Maryland State Police have decided to start up their own tip line to fight crime.
"We see this as another form of crime prevention," said James Emerick, who heads the crime prevention unit for the state police in Carroll. "There are many approaches to solving crime, and this has proven effective."
The state police hot line -- 876-8956 -- will be manned by volunteers who hope to receive confidential information about crimes in the county and pass the tips on to law enforcement officers. When the volunteers are not manning the phone, callers will be able to leave messages on an answering machine.
Unlike Crime Solvers, which was 12 years old this year, the new hot line will not offer any rewards for the information.
Emerick said there are citizens in the county who don't like to talk to the police directly, and the hot line will continue to enable them to pass information to police.
"It is commendable that they are going to offer this service," said Carolyn Fairbank, the Crime Solvers chairman for the past year, who said she wouldn't participate in the new hot line.
Fairbank said she is somewhat burned out after a yearlong, and ultimately futile, effort to keep Crime Solvers afloat.
"It was one of those organizations that had run its course. For a number of years, it was very popular, but people just lost their enthusiasm," she said.
For the past several months, Fairbank and another volunteer were the only people keeping the organization going.
Carroll citizens apparently also were losing interest in the organization, Fairbank said.
"There were periods of six or seven months where the phone didn't ring," she said. "It is just apathy. Just like voter turnout. People don't care, and they don't want to get involved."
While crime in Carroll is a lot less prevalent than in other metropolitan counties, Emerick said crime is among the top five concerns of county residents.
Emerick said he attributed the demise of Crime Solvers to the fact that it was run by volunteers with family, business and other obligations.
"People are all busy with things, and they didn't feel any urgency," he said. "This is not a county where there is lots of wild and exciting crime."
Fairbank speculated that another factor leading to the demise of Crime Solvers is the large influx of people from metropolitan Baltimore to Carroll who have a totally different perspective on crime than longtime county residents.
"People are moving up here to get away from terribly violent crime in the city. Even though they are getting burglarized and vandalized, they accept it as a way of life. And, besides, it is better than where they came from."
Fairbank said she had high hopes for Crime Solvers when she took it over early last year. She tried to raise the profile of the organization by appearing at carnivals and other community gatherings. In desperation, Fairbank hand-wrote more than five dozen letters to elected county officials, police chiefs and others. She asked for help and money. Only two people responded.
"There was no way we could keep this organization going with just two people," she said.
When there was no help forthcoming despite all these efforts, Fairbank decided the only choice was to end Crime Solvers.
"It is a real shame that Crime Solvers folded, but we will continue as best as we can," said Emerick.