$50,000 for a murder arrest? Baltimore lawmaker seeks to create Crime Solvers Reward Fund

When Baltimore Police send out a news bulletin about a crime, a request for anonymous tips is almost always included.

Police ask would-be tipsters to call Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland, a volunteer-run nonprofit that solicits anonymous tips about perpetrators from across the Baltimore metropolitan region with the promise of cash rewards for the tips that help detectives solve crimes and make arrests.


Except hardly anyone ever gets paid, and those who do don’t get much.

A review of annual tax filings shows Metro Crime Stoppers paid just under $126,000 in rewards from 2000 to 2019, the most recent year for which data was available. On average, about $6,300 in cash rewards is paid out each year, although that number fluctuates.


Typically a person can be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000 from Metro Crime Stoppers, but supplemental funds from Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s office have raised that figure to $8,000 for information that leads to an arrest in a city murder case.

Del. Caylin Young, a freshman Democratic lawmaker who represents a large swath of East Baltimore, believes the current payouts are not large enough to encourage people to come forward, so he filed a bill to create a state-managed Crime Solvers Reward Fund, which would provide larger payouts to would-be tipsters.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Young’s bill at 1 p.m. Tuesday. He said the measure is relatively low-risk, because if the proposed reward money is not spent, it could just be reallocated. Young is asking for $5 million from the state.

“Either we spend all of it and solve every last crime, or we solve some of it and the rest of the money sits there,” he said.

House Bill 1044 would establish a fund under the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services that would provide grants to law enforcement agencies and existing reward programs, and Young said he imagines a system that would pay out $50,000 to people who provide information that leads to an arrest for murder cases.

“We need to be making sure that it’s worth people’s bang for their buck,” said Young, adding that he got this idea from one of his constituents. “If you live in the same neighborhood as somebody that murdered somebody … you might want to get out of that neighborhood. You can’t get out of that neighborhood long-term for $8,000.”

Heather Warnken, the executive director for the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the University of Baltimore School of Law, cautioned that money alone would not necessarily address the reasons people are fearful or unwilling to come forward in the aftermath of a violent crime.

In a scathing report examining the city’s treatment of victims of gun violence, Warnken found that there are more reasons people disengage with the criminal justice system beyond a “stop snitching” mentality. Fear for their safety combined with a lack of protection often drives people to silence, Warnken’s report found. Additionally, victims often are asked to jump through “unrealistic hoops” to access services they might find helpful.


“Until you meaningfully address all the cultural reasons that people aren’t coming forward, and can truly provide for their safety, upping a dollar amount isn’t a magic wand to change those barriers,” Warnken said.

The fear of retaliatory violence is not unfounded. Last month relatives of a 16-year-old who was killed earlier this year revealed at a news conference that their home had been shot into after the family publicly applauded that an arrest had been made in that case.

As to the rewards themselves, there are reasons the payouts are low and there are so few of them, said Lee Miller, secretary of Metro Crime Stoppers. For a reward to be paid, the Crime Stoppers’ eight-person board must approve it, Miller said, and just because a reward is approved does not mean it is collected.

On average, Miller estimated that just a third of eligible tipsters collect on their rewards. To collect, they have to coordinate a pickup time and location of their choosing on the P3 app, a mobile phone application that allows people to anonymously submit tips to Crime Stoppers and law enforcement agencies. Because they are anonymous, there is no other way to communicate with them, Miller said.

“We solve roughly 20 to 25 crimes a year,” Miller said. “It’s not overwhelming.”

Baltimore had more than 330 homicides and more than 680 nonfatal shootings in 2022, according to police records.


Crime Stoppers groups are nationwide, with a presence in all 50 states. Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland, as it is known formally, operates in Baltimore City, Annapolis and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Queen Anne counties. The group posts about crimes on social media and buys billboard space, asking those who saw something to call in or use the P3 app to submit tips.

Miller said Metro Crime Stoppers, which is self-funded and made up of volunteers, is starting a new advertising campaign solely to bring in more tips.

As a rule, the organization does not pay more than $2,000 of its own funds for tips because it has limited resources, Miller said, and the money it has on hand it raises throughout the year.

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Private citizens are allowed to offer higher rewards through the nonprofit, which holds the money in an escrow account.

The Patriot Act, a sweeping piece of surveillance legislation passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, limits the amount of cash a person can receive anonymously from a nonprofit. Miller said he does not believe the anonymous reporting requirements apply to governmental entities.

The mayor’s office, which has a $100,000 contract with Metro Crime Stoppers through the end of June, offers supplemental money that is in addition to the $2,000 reward the nonprofit would pay on its own, Miller said.


Announced in 2021, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement has paid out $11,000 in rewards since it entered into partnership with Metro Crime Stoppers, according to data from the nonprofit. An additional $18,000 has yet to be claimed.

In November, city voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of a city fund to pay out and supplement the existing tipster system. Similar to Young’s proposed statewide fund, the city fund will not contain any money unless it is budgeted for.

Miller said Metro Crime Stoppers would welcome more governmental partnership and bigger rewards, believing that would increase the efficacy of the cash-for-tips program.

“We can still run our anonymous tip lines, and that is a real value for people who are afraid,” Miller said. “But there ought to be something more coordinated. Basically, you’ve got eight people who are trying to self-fund this thing, and that’s a haphazard approach to assisting the police, you know what I mean?”