Area Crime Solvers program revitalized

Published 4:22 am Monday, December 13, 2021

It is now easier for members of the Franklin/Southampton community to anonymously aid in solving crimes, potentially earning reward money for doing so.

Franklin/Southampton County Crime Solvers has streamlined down to one phone number — 757-516-7100, and the group has also added the P3 Tips phone app as an option in which people can anonymously supply tips via text.

The revitalized Crime Solvers program has been launched in coordination with the Franklin Police Department and the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are thrilled for this program to be rebranded in the Franklin Southampton County community,” Franklin Police Chief Steve Patterson said. “I believe this program will build upon the Crime Solvers program by reminding citizens of the importance of reporting crimes or providing information about crimes, but by adding a text capability, it may draw in a younger, tech-savvy crowd who can use their phones to report such information.”

Visit p3tips.com to download the P3 Tips app and learn more about it.

Franklin/Southampton County Crime Solvers used to have two phone numbers, one for Franklin-related tips and one for Southampton County-related tips.

Now community members need to remember only 757-516-7100, and when they call it, they will be greeted by the following prompt: “You have reached the Franklin/Southampton Crime Solvers. All callers will remain anonymous. If your tip leads to an arrest or to the recovery of narcotics or stolen property, you could receive a cash reward. Press 1 to provide a tip for crimes in the city of Franklin. Press 2 to provide a tip for crimes in Southampton County. Press 0 to repeat this message.”

Patterson affirmed that Crime Solver programs have made a notable difference in the communities in which they have been established.

“Absolutely,” he said. “If we can get this program in people’s minds and they see the reward/money they can get by providing information, it will only grow in the future.”

Franklin/Southampton County Crime Solvers would not be possible without the assistance of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Franklin-Southampton Chamber Foundation.

Vernie Francis II, who is president of the foundation, said the local Crime Solvers program first started around 1985.

“We did it jointly in the beginning with Smithfield Police Department, Isle of Wight (County) Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department and the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office,” he said, noting he was sheriff of Southampton County at the time. “With the assistance of the Chamber of Commerce and then Union Camp (Corporation), we formed what was called a Blackwater Regional Crimeline.”

He said that this arrangement went on for a number of years, and then it was decided that Isle of Wight and Smithfield wanted to go their own way, and Franklin and Southampton wanted to go their own way.

“So we dissolved the regional crime solvers and formed the Franklin/Southampton Crime Solvers,” he said.

Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa Beale noted that the chamber foundation is the fiscal agent for the local Crime Solvers program, and she explained what that entails.

“In that foundation, we have the funds, so when there are rewards to be paid to the people that call in, we do that,” she said. “We pay for the phone line, that type of thing. So we manage the operational costs and do the marketing and that type of thing. We’ll be getting signs and that type of thing to get the word out.”

Francis said that as time has gone on, the chamber foundation wanted to revitalize the Crime Solvers program and “bring it into today’s world.”

“In cooperation with (current Southampton County) Sheriff (Josh) Wyche and Chief Patterson and their staff and all, we felt like it would be in the community’s best interest if there was just one number,” he said.

And referencing the P3 app, he noted it is the most prevalent tips app used across the commonwealth.

Referring to today’s smartphones, Francis said, “These little mini computers that have become our center of our lives, we want to be able to have that technology out there in the P3 app to where if somebody sees something, they say something.

“And as professional as our law enforcement community is and will continue to be, it takes a community, it takes all of us,” he added. “I’ve always said sometimes a person may think something is very insignificant and go, ‘Oh, I don’t think I’ll report that, I don’t think I’ll call that in,’ but that may be the tiny piece of the puzzle that law enforcement needs to make that picture.”

He said he thinks that one of the things that makes the Franklin/Southampton community so great is that everyone looks after each other. 

“And if we, as a little (Crime Solvers) group, can add aid to that and add to that in any way, we’re excited to do it,” he said.

He said the change to a single phone number and the addition of the P3 Tips app took place within the last six months.

“Remember that any information that anybody gives is always anonymous, so that anonymity is important for us to maintain,” he added.