Fairfax County police were looking for Herbert H. Jumper, a Southeast Washington man wanted for robbery and murder in the slaying of a 52-year-old blind man from Falls Church in 1983.
It seemed as if Jumper had disappeared from the face of the earth.
But Terri McDaniel, coordinator of the county police department's Crime Solvers program, held onto a slender hope.
"We knew he frequented gay bars," she said.
From a gay press association in San Francisco she obtained a list of all gay publications in the country and sent out fliers to about 400 of them, asking that they run a description and photograph of Jumper. Many did.
The police flier offered a $1,000 reward and guaranteed the anonymity of any tipster giving information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the case.
The effort paid off.
Last October, McDaniel said, "We got a call from Philadelphia."
A tipster there said that Jumper was living under an assumed name in the basement of his building. The tipster had recognized the fugitive from his photograph in a Philadelphia newspaper.
Jumper subsequently was arrested, tried and convicted of murder, robbery and burglary. The anonymous tipster received his $1,000 reward.
And that, said McDaniel, makes Crime Solvers worth it.
All told, since it started in October 1979, the privately funded nonprofit Crime Solvers program in Fairfax County has paid $68,750 in rewards.
This has been just part of the more than a quarter of a million dollars that Crime Solver groups throughout the Washington area have distributed through participating police departments since 1978.
According to figures supplied by police in the District, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Montgomery County and Prince George's County, tipsters have helped solve 2,346 criminal cases and brought about the arrest of more than 1,000 suspects since the programs began.
Crime Solvers programs -- there are dozens of them in the mid-Atlantic region and reportedly more than 400 in the United States and Canada -- are each operated autonomously by volunteer boards of business leaders and community activists who raise reward money through private contributions and channel the funds to police departments in their jurisdictions for payments to tipsters.
The police departments, in turn, publicize their major unsolved cases through television spots and news releases, offering not only up to $1,000 in cash but complete anonymity to all tipsters who call in.
When tipsters call police, they are not required to give their names or other identifying information.
The tipster is given a caller number to use for identification purposes in any future contacts.
If a tip leads to an arrest and indictment, the tipster is given his reward usually by meeting a member of the Crime Solvers civilian board at a predesignated location, such as a doorway to a busy downtown store.
The tipster knows the board member's name, but the board member knows the tipster only by his caller number.
"Anonymity, that's the key to the program," said Officer George Ludington, who is the coordinator for the Crime Solvers program in Montgomery County.
"It's been working pretty good," said D.C. Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile.
"It's cost effective," was the way fellow officer Rufino Fisher described the D.C. program.
In Prince George's County in suburban Maryland, for example, where the program has been established since November 1979, tips through Crime Solvers have helped solve 16 murders, 76 rapes, 71 burglaries, 54 narcotics cases and 11 child abuse cases, according to Officer Carol Landrum, coordinator of the county program.
Who calls in tips to police?
"Most of them are people who have heard these jerks running at the mouth, bragging somewhere," Landrum said.
Also, said Officer John Kochensparger, coordinator for the Alexandria Police Department's program, the tipsters often are the "fringe element between the criminals and law-abiding society . . . . Their's is the best information."
He said, "I've had calls where the actual suspect was in another room" next to the tipster, and the tipster would have to "mumble and talk low."
Kochensparger said that the percentage of men and women among tipsters "is split down the middle."
Women, he said, often "will call on a boyfriend or a husband" if they have broken up.
"They call out of the circumstances of their lives . . . . whereas the men usually call about something they've heard," Kochensparger said.
The only major jurisdiction in the Washington area that does not participate in a Crime Solvers program is Arlington County.
County police spokesman Detective Tom Bell explained:
"Originally, the chief was uncomfortable with the idea of paying for information," but later as the program became popular in other jurisdictions, Arlington police also began publicizing major unsolved cases on "a spot basis."
Bell said that the department has paid a number of small rewards, usually $50 or $100 for minor drug cases, all from department funds rather than from private sources, as with the Crime Solvers programs. The confidential Crime Solvers telephone number for Fairfax County is 691-8888. The number in Alexandria is 838-4858.