You’re probably familiar with Crime Stoppers. Crime Stoppers first began in Albuquerque, NM during July 1975. Two weeks after a fatal shooting, the police had no information, when out of desperation, Detective Greg MacAleese approached the local television station requesting a reconstruction of the crime. The re-enactment offered $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the killers. Within 72 hours, a person called in identifying a car leaving the scene at high speed, and he had noted its registration. The person calling said that he did not want to get involved, so he had not called earlier. Detective MacAleese then realized that fear and apathy were the primary reasons why the public tended not to get involved. So he helped establish a system where the public could anonymously provide details of crime events that offered cash rewards for information leading to an arrest and/or conviction. Since its first chapter was officially formed in Albuquerque in 1976, Crime Stoppers has spread across the United States, and has been responsible for more than half a million arrests and more than $4 billion in recovered property.
This all sounds very good, and I support the organization, but let’s dig deeper into the motivational aspects of why someone would phone in an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers. Someone who really wanted to do their “civic duty” would go directly to the police, and if they’re afraid of “involvement” or retribution, they can still remain anonymous. Given that anyone can provide an anonymous tip directly to the police, the real attraction of Crime Stoppers is the cash. Here are some examples from Crime Stoppers organizations across the country. The payouts are all conditioned upon either an arrest or an indictment or both.
This from the Topeka, KS Crime Stoppers website:
And here is a random sampling of the rewards offered by Crime Stoppers organizations across the country:
Crime Stoppers of Michigan – $1,000
Texas Crime Stoppers – $50,000
Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay – $1,000
NYPD Crime Stoppers – $10,000, $2,000, $1,000, or $500 – depending on the crime
The problem here is that people can be tempted to provide information, even if it’s false, just to get the payout. It happens – just like jailhouse snitches will provide false information to get a deal from the prosecutor.