Enhanced Rewards for Police Tipping Homicides. Effective or Problematic?

The combination of 44 homicides in the past two years and the rising amount of violent crime in Fort Myers, Florida has caused the Fort Myers Police Department to enhance the rewards for valuable police tips. FMPD Chief Baker states the reason for such enhancements is to encourage citizens to come forward and do the right thing. Rewards vary, anonymous tips leading to arrests of persons illegally possessing firearms and persons who have committed robbery could yield $5000.00. Individuals earn up to $25,000.00 for providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for any homicide in the city of Fort Myers. Valid intentions aside, increases in police tip rewards also invite frivolous tips and information.

The voice of citizens with truly valid tips may be diluted by this enlarged number of falsely “concerned citizens”. Additionally, these immaterial tips can cause FMPD to misuse its time and resources when following up on them.

Another obstacle that affects police tipping is witnesses and victims hesitating to come forward with information because of the fear that harm may follow from the individual whom a tip was given about. In order to curb this dilemma Chief Baker wrote a letter to lawmakers insisting that more protection be provided for witnesses and victims. He seeks to keep the identities of the tips anonymous from the media and public so that citizens will feel safer and more confident in coming forward with information.

Inadvertently, the enhancement of police tipping rewards could become an impediment for the FMPD in their search for justice. For that reason, one could argue that citizens “doing the right thing” should need no encouragement, and until the time it doesn’t, Fort Myers will likely remain in its current situation.