Tough economic times appear to be leaving fugitives fewer places to hide.
Crime Stoppers, the Spokane-area group that offers rewards for information leading to the capture of crime suspects, has seen calls increase noticeably in recent months.
“Is it the economy? We don’t know for sure. But recently people are calling in way more tips seeking a reward,” said Eric Green, a board member of the nonprofit group formerly known as Crime Check. “I have no doubt that people who need some money are using us to get some money.”
The organization offers rewards of as much as $1,000 depending on the severity of the crime, but most payouts tend to be much less.
On Friday, for example, someone ended up with an extra $50 for turning in 47-year-old Douglas Dahlin, who now is sitting in jail. He was wanted on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.
Identities of tipsters are kept confidential, but they tend to be acquaintances of the suspects, according to police.
“Ex-boyfriends, girlfriends and relatives often don’t think much about ratting each other out,” said Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dave Reagan. “It’s in part due to a poor economy. But then there’s also the fact that a reward often equals the amount of a drug fix.”
Rewards handed out this year have surpassed the total for all of 2007 – $1,100 so far this year compared to $900 last year, Green said.
Since Crime Check switched over to Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest, officials say the program has been successful for a number of reasons. Among them are a more nationally recognized organization and a more heavily visited Web site. “The real interesting part is about our Web site,” Green said. “Sixty-two cases have been cleared by people seeing themselves and turning themselves in. Some of the people have turned themselves in and said they didn’t want cops showing up at their homes.”