Queen Anne's sheriff offers Valentine's flowers for 'most wanted'
Feb 17, 2013 (The Capital - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The video opens with a shot of heart-shaped balloons as Muzak jazz plays in the background.
The next shot shows hands opening a huge box of "Sheriff's Sampler" chocolates. The hands belong to Queen Anne's County Sheriff Gary Hofmann.
The sheriff explains he had a lonely Valentine's Day last year. No one took him up on his offer to personally give a dozen roses to the members of the county's "Most Wanted" to turn themselves in, he says.
But this year he had a new offer. Hofmann says he will give the roses instead to spouses or significant others who provide information that leads to an arrest.
"This will be between just you and me," Hofmann says, as an animated twinkle gleams from his teeth.
Hofmann then rattles off a list of this year's Most Wanted, all women, some of whom at one time had addresses in Anne Arundel County.
The video is the Valentine's Day edition of Queen Anne's County's Most Wanted -- a series of videos that play every few weeks on QAC TV.
While the offer and the music may seem a little cheesy, Hofmann said the video has generated viable tips -- although, as of Friday afternoon, he had yet to personally deliver the flowers.
"This year I'm pretty confident that by end of the weekend we're going to close one or two of the warrants," he said.
The sheriff's office began the series a few years ago, after being approached by QAC TV, said the office's spokesman, .
"The first ones were probably pretty terrible," Patrick said.
Then, a year or two ago, a producer for "America's Most Wanted" contacted the sheriff's office with advice. Hofmann and Patrick traveled to Washington, D.C., to watch a taping of the nationally aired program, meet host John Walsh and even watch as tips came in over the show's phone lines, Patrick said.
Over the years, the Queen Anne's program has been "extremely effective" in garnering tips, Hofmann said.
"The show's been very successful in reaching the local community and surrounding jurisdictions," Hofmann said.
When Hofmann was elected in 2006, the sheriff's office had 700 open warrants. Now the number is usually between 450 and 500, Patrick said.
"It's one of those things. You put enough information out there and someone goes, 'Hey, I know him,'" Patrick said.
Many times, those wanted will turn themselves in after seeing the program, Patrick said.
"It's surprising how many people call and say, 'I'm on the Most Wanted, my mother's upset,' and they come in and turn themselves in," Patrick said.
The sheriff's office has used holidays before to highlight different kinds of open warrants and criminals. On Halloween, the program featured some of those with the most eye-popping mugshots, Patrick said.
"A lot of times when you get arrested, it's not in your best look," Patrick joked.
Livening up the program is "a good way to bring a humorous and transparent approach to let people know these people are wanted and have been difficult to locate and we're going to do everything in our power to resolve some of these older cases," Hofmann said.
Hofmann said he's already thinking of ideas for next year's Valentine's Day video.
In June, the sheriff's office is planning a Father's Day edition focusing on deadbeat dads, he said.
The current video can be seen at www.queenannessheriff.org.
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