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The New York Times has a fascinating article about the impact of tough economic times on police tips (hat tip: Marginal Revolutions):

Cities and towns from Detroit to Omaha to Beaufort County, N.C., all report increases of 25 percent or more in the first quarter, with tipsters telling operators they need the money.

Are we sure it’s not a rise in crime?

Some coordinators suggest that rising crime rates might be driving up the number of tips. But in Jackson, Tenn., Sgt. Mike Johnson said his call volume had gone from 2-3 a day to 8-9. He theorized that rising crime there was not a factor because the program advertises steadily regardless of trends. “People just need money,” Sergeant Johnson said.

Jim Cogan, director of the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers program in California, said most of the rewards offered by his program used to go unclaimed. But with large numbers of foreclosures and heavy job losses, Mr. Cogan said, “now we’re seeing rewards get picked up right away and our tipsters being frustrated when tips aren’t available as quickly as they need the money.”

Sounds like this could be quite lucrative, doesn’t it?

Some people have made a cottage industry of calling in tips. Although repeat callers do not give their names, operators recognize their voices.

We have people out there that, realistically, this could be their job,” said Sgt. Zachary Self, who answers Crime Stoppers calls for the Macon Police Department.

“Two or three arrests per week, you could make $700, $750 per week,” Sergeant Self said. “You could make better than a minimum-wage job.”

 

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