Many people hit hard by the economic recession are reporting crimes to the police for reward money to supplement income.

‘Crime Stopper’ hotlines all over the country have been ringing off the hook with people trying to get money to pay for increased gas prices, food prices, and rent after having a home foreclosed.

But how much can you really earn from turning in your friends or neighbors?

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

… programs in most places pay $50 to $1,000, with some jurisdictions giving bonuses for help solving the most serious crimes, or an extra “gun bounty” if a weapon is recovered. In Sussex County, NJ the average payment for a tip that results in an arrest is $400, Sergeant Beller said.

“Usually you deliver the money in an unmarked car and meet them somewhere,” he said. “But these people come right to the office and walk right through the front door.”

Wow, these people are ballsy. I would be worried someone’s ‘boyz’ would get pissed and come after me if they saw me counting $100 bills just after their ringleader got clinked. But I suppose these people have more important things to with their time than lay low and mess around with discreet packages from unmarked cars.

The article also goes on to point out that no matter how much the Crime Stoppers spokespeople illustrate a tipsters’ sense of righteousness or moral virtue, the Crime Stoppers slogans and logos are all about hyping up the money aspect of the transaction:

“Crime doesn’t pay but we do,” say the mobile billboards cruising Jacksonville, Fla. A poster in Jackson, Tenn., draws a neat equation: “Ring Ring + Bling Bling = Cha-Ching.” The bling, in this case, is a pair of handcuffs.

Probably not the same ‘bling’, Lil Wayne and the rest of the Cash Money Millionaires sang poetically about during the dawn of the term in the late 90s.

However, the rise in people ratting out their grandchildren, ex-boyfriends, and neighbors has spawned a new industry and given a few ‘entrepreneurs’ a new career (via the NYT article):

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

Could this soon replace Wal-Mart as the hottest minimum wage job in town? I can see it now, a couple of enterprising senior citizens sitting on the porch, binoculars handy, and the Crime Stoppers number on speed dial.

One could argue that the likelihood of citizens not being able to make ends meet due to the recession has forced more people to commit crimes such as burglary, robbery, and drugs. And therefore, in a natural correlation, the Crime Stoppers call volume has increased as well.

But I don’t buy that theory, it seems a lot more likely that snitchin’ on the thugs and punks down the street has become a much more accessible option with text messaging as a means of reporting crimes.

Does anyone think it’s possible criminals are being turned in by their family/spouses, and then bailed out with a portion of the reward money? If you keep a 20% profit out of the whole deal, is it worth the trouble?

New York Times: As Prices Rise, Crime Tipsters Work Overtime, May 18, 2008