Strategy: Crime Tip Rewards
Strategy Monetary rewards for crime tips encourage crime reporting. Crime Problem Addressed This strategy aims to encourage--through financial incentives . . .
Monetary rewards for crime tips encourage crime reporting.
Crime Problem Addressed
This strategy aims to encourage--through financial incentives and anonymity--reporting of criminal incidents by reluctant or fearful residents who have witnessed or have important information about a crime. Such reports provide information which helps local law enforcement apprehend criminal suspects, reduce crime, stop traffic in drugs and arms, and recover stolen property.
A community group or city agency must administer a crime-reporting hotline and dispense rewards for valuable tips; local law enforcement personnel must be assigned to follow up on any tips received and help determine those who qualify for the cash (or other) rewards. Funds must be made available to pay rewards, and a telephone must be dedicated to receiving information from residents. Finally, written materials should describe the rewards, criteria for valuable information, and assurances that callers remain anonymous.
The central partnership in this strategy is the one between the program operators, police, and the public. The police must establish clear criteria for information that warrants rewards and, through written material and word of mouth, must ensure residents that the identity of callers will never be revealed. Law enforcement must cooperate in publicizing the program and developing cooperative relationships with the community to encourage residents to report criminal activity.
Some residents will question payments to people simply for doing their civic duty. However, such concerns are often offset by the success that the program achieves in resolving cases.
Signs of Success
Begun in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1976, community-based "crime stoppers" programs have spread across the United States and around the world. The umbrella organization, Crime Stoppers International, focuses on the principle that someone other than the criminal has information that could solve every crime. The fear of reporting is overcome with anonymity, and apathy is overcome with rewards. Numerous communities have implemented this strategy, reporting successes in arrests of criminals and recovery of stolen and contraband property. During a recent five-year period, more than 200 crimes in San Jose, California, were reported as solved with help from callers to the tip hotline. The existence of such a program makes many residents more observant and better detectors of criminal activity. When the community, police, and media all work together, this strategy reduces crime.
Applying the Strategy
Concerned about crime in the city and the surrounding area, the Savannah, Georgia, Chamber of Commerce established the "Savannah Silent Witness" program in 1983. The clear purpose was to spur residents to report crimes. The program supports police investigations, but it was set up outside the police department to overcome any reluctance to deal directly with the police. Rewards for tips vary with the severity of the crime involved, how critical the provided evidence is to the prosecution of the criminal, and the potential risk to the informant in coming forward with the information. Over its first ten years of operation, Savannah Silent Witness handled an average of 200 calls per month. Ten percent of the calls in that period contributed to the arrest of a suspect, to the recovery of stolen property, or to the seizure of illegal drugs or contraband.
In Savannah, San Jose, and most other communities using this strategy, recovered property and cash more than pay for the money paid to informants. Donations from the public fully support the Savannah program.