DO REWARDS HELP SOLVE CRIMES?

The police have a remarkable number of tools at their disposal when it comes to solving crimes; DNA, fingerprinting, computer databases, informants – to mention a few. When police have no leads they sometimes resort to the time-honored practice of offering a reward; this seems to have worked during the “Wild-West”- at least, where Jessie James was concerned.

But how does this monetary inducement fair in the modern world? Opinions are split. Some law enforcement workers believe the reward offers, especially when made shortly after the commission of the crime, hinder their investigations because they tend to generate too many false leads thereby draining other resources. Those who opine from a result-oriented perspective feel that rewards do not lead to enough apprehensions.

A recent study in Los Angeles revealed that rewards, from a statistical outlook, did not lead to sufficient arrests. Government officials offered rewards in 372 cases from 2008 to 2013, and only 15 of the informants were paid the reward money. Other factors enter the equation as well – some people fear to get involved. It can be very dangerous – so dangerous that even charged defendants will refuse to provide incriminating evidence against others out of fear of retaliation directed at them, or more commonly, family members. In these cases, the lure of money is outweighed by their concerns.

Organizations such as “Crime Stoppers” attempt to overcome such fears by offering rewards with a condition of total anonymity – stating that the person’s identity will not be known even to them and no testimony would ever be required. In general, it appears that offering rewards do help when viewed from the perspective of being another tool in the whole investigative process. While the number of “results” may not be satisfactory to some, the practice helps to convict in some cases. In one known instance, a son turned in his mother to get the reward he needed the dough to fuel his “meth” habit. There are numerous other cases which have led to the identity of a defendant. Moreover, a reward offer can generate renewed public interest over a crime that has gone “cold” facilitating a fresh approach to leads which may have been missed.

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