When a crime’s trail grows cold, police will make an award available for any information that could lead to the perpetrators’ arrests. These awards can add up substantially, with some rewards rising into the thousands of dollars.
However, before people call and leave a tip with police, they may wonder if it is worth risking their safety and reputations, as well as that of their families. Many police departments allow tipsters to call in anonymously and do not publish these people’s names in the media. This perk, as well as several others, may make informant awards worth the effort.
The Negative Stigma
Even though providing needed information to the police is a noble act, it still has very negative connotations associated with it. The name calling goes back as early as childhood where a kid may be called a tattle tale for informing an adult of a wrong act that was done by someone in secret.
We’ve even seen individuals labeled as stool pigeons, squealers, and snitches for reporting crimes that have been committed. The shame affiliated with doing the right thing is often to much for most people to carry. In turn, they often turn a blind eye to wrong doing. If they do decide to speak up, it is often done anonymously.
The Perks of Anonymity
If a person knows for certain the identity of a criminal wanted for a recent crime, he or she may be allowed to leave this information without providing his or her name. This anonymity can be helpful if that individual fears backlash from the criminal or the community.
Sometimes people who call in anonymously believe that they cannot collect an award if they do not leave their names or identification information. The police remedy this dilemma by providing anonymous informants with case numbers that they can use to claim a reward if the suspect is caught.
The Role of Informant Awards
1. Criminal Informants – While many people call and leave tips simply to be good citizens, other people are less inclined unless they can benefit directly from their actions.
The police realize that many individuals want to be rewarded for putting their reputations and safety on the line; they reward these individuals by offering up cash that informants can claim if they have pertinent information regarding the case.
Without these cash rewards, the police may never be able to catch their suspects or put to rest old cases. This money provides the incentive the community needs to offer up vital information about their city’s crimes.
However, the ability for people to call in anonymously, combined with their incentive to claim cash rewards, could lead some individuals to call in and leave false information.
The police therefore have to do the appropriate amount of investigating to determine if people are telling the truth when they tip off the police, or if they are acting out of revenge or even malice by calling in and giving false information.
2. Government Informants – The taxpaying American loses millions of dollars to fraud against government entities daily. Thankfully, more Americans are speaking up in order to stifle these fraudulent crimes.
A well-known whistle blower attorney states, “While these schemes take many forms, they all have at least one thing in common: they waste taxpayer dollars.”
Luckily, there is an increasing number of local, state and federal laws mandated to persuade those with knowledge of fraudulent government behavior to speak out. It does not hurt to note that these laws will sometimes have a financial reward attached, and some form of protection for the people who actually “blow the whistle.”
The Risk of False Tips
Because people do not have to give their names when tipping off the police, anyone can call and report anyone else as being the culprit of a crime. False information may pour into police headquarters when former lovers act out in revenge, schoolmates want to pull pranks on people with whom they go to school, and neighbors want to cause trouble with others in the neighborhood.
While the police often can quickly weed out false tips, sometimes they must act on information provided in malice or revenge, even when that information is not true. This action causes people to be wrongly accused of crimes and even sent to jail while investigators piece together their cases.
While the police rely on the public to provide them with information they need to solve crimes, cops also know the risk that awaits the public if the information being given is false or provided to spite others.
Collecting an informant’s reward can be enough of an incentive for people to call in and tell police what they want to know about a crime. The police, however, must then decide if the information is reliable and if the reward money did not prompt someone to call in and provide false tips.