Crime Stoppers pushes back against bigger rewards

Posted at 8:03 PM, Feb 26, 2017

CINCINNATI -- You might think increasing a reward would help catch a killer.

But that's just not true, according to the former police chief who leads Greater Cincinnati Crime Stoppers. In fact, his organization says a larger reward could make police work harder.

Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman was behind a push to raise rewards as high as $10,000 for killings involving a child. It came after a gunman fatally shot Alexandrea Thompson at her Mount Auburn home last month; she was 9 years old.

Crime Stoppers increased the reward for tips to $2,500, the largest the organization offers.


Gene Ferrara, Crime Stoppers chairman and former University of Cincinnati police chief, said there's no evidence a larger reward helps.

"We're not in favor in something that's unproven, even though it sounds kind of good on the surface that we should do that," he told WCPO.

Crime Stoppers works with more than 100 police agencies in nine counties; it received 3,137 tips and helped close 544 cases last year, Ferrara said in a letter to Smitherman.

He added the volunteer-run organization already is stretched thin raising the $100,000 needed to cover rewards each year.

But Smitherman worries other people can pay more to keep witnesses quiet.

"The drug boys can pay anybody $1,000. I mean, $1,000 is nothing for the street. So, this sense that someone's going to come forward for $1,000 in a heinous crime where we have three or four people breaking into someone's home and shooting the owner and killing a kid -- there's a lot of fear out there," Smitherman said.

A higher reward from Crime Stoppers could help witnesses stay safe, he said; for example, some might want to move to a new apartment.

In his letter, Ferrara countered that cases involving large rewards usually are solved because of solid police work -- not the reward amount.

Big rewards also can lead more people to send in bogus "tips" that aren't helpful, Ferrara said, which just distracts detectives.

The Crime Stoppers organization also is concerned about the perception of favoring one case over another, as well as federal tax reporting requirements.

"It's an awkward position for us to be in because obviously our whole purpose is to catch bad guys," Ferrara said.

Smitherman said he hoped Crime Stoppers would reconsider. "There has been discussion about possibly starting another organization in order to resolve the matter," he said.

Cincinnati City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee, which Smitherman leads, is expected to talk about the issue at 10 a.m. Monday at City Hall.