Reacting to national news that a woman had kidnapped a 7-day-old baby at knifepoint near St. Louis in 2006, someone in California wanted to put up a $25,000 reward. Franklin County, Mo., Sheriff Gary Toelke asked the man to wait, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While common sense might suggest that big money can buy key information, experienced police know it also can swamp their limited resources with useless tips from the greedy. Deputies soon rescued the baby without the money being offered.
Rewards, insiders say, are a tool of limited value. There are no standards on how they are offered, or how the money is disbursed. Even in the few cases where rewards help solve crimes, the money seldom is collected. Robert Hertz, a longtime detective before being elected Madison County, Il.. sheriff, said, “In my 36 years of experience, I can’t recall a case in which a reward was put out there and it solved the case.” That doesn’t stop outraged or anguished relatives and friends of victims from dangling cash as bait for a productive tip. “You have to do it,” said Chris Bethmann of St. Charles, Mo., whose brother was murdered last year. “Even if 99 percent of the information is worthless, when you are talking about something so important, the money can’t be an issue.”