Albuquerque, N.M., which launched the national crime-stoppers movement that pays informants for tips that help police solve local crimes, is taking the idea one controversial step further. The city’s police department put a want ad in a weekly newspaper for “people that hang out with crooks to do part-time work,” reports USA Today. “Make some extra cash! Drug use OK. Criminal record? Not a problem.” The ad in the Weekly Alibi prompted 93 calls during its two-week run before it was taken down last week, police spokesman John Walsh said.
Some calls yielded valuable information in a drug investigation and two violent crime cases. Walsh said the ad will run again “as soon as the detectives feel they need the help” and it could become a model for other agencies. The ad is drawing criticism from analysts who say it could lead to inaccurate information when some agencies are re-evaluating how they deal with paid informants. “In an economy when jobs are scarce, this is just asking people to make up information for money,” said Ellen Yaroshefsky, a legal ethics professor at New York’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. “This is extremely dangerous.” In 15 percent of cases involving a wrongful conviction overturned by DNA evidence, an informant or jailhouse snitch testified against the defendant, said Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project.