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High school students offered rewards to stop crime

Students at Esquimalt High School have been turning in classmates who trash a locker or steal somebody's expensive sneakers since the school began offering small cash rewards, vice principal Robert House said.

Associated Press

Within minutes of a school-wide announcement about an unsolved crime, there's usually a line of students outside the office with solid information, House said.

"My opening line is usually something to the effect of, `Students, we need a little help and there's a possible chance of a reward,'" he said. "It's changing the culture a little bit of the so-called teenaged code of silence."

The success rate of the program is about 75 percent, House said.

The program is modeled on Crime Stoppers, in which police pay for tips that help solve crimes while keeping the tipsters' identities secret.

Students at the school, located in one of the city's rougher neighborhoods, suggested the program to reduce vandalism and foster a greater sense of community, House said.

"It's not that they are ratting on them," he said. "It's (that) something wrong has happened here and a kid needs to be held accountable for something. If someone has stolen something, if someone has broken a window, that's wrong."

The reward is nice but not the deciding factor, many students say.

"I would use it if I had to," said Norman Sam, 16, an 11th grader. "If something needed to be told for a student, I would, but I've never heard of anything that needs to be told."

Another 11th grader, Brad Larue said spray-painting graffiti on lockers was rampant until Crime Stoppers began.

"It's brought vandalism down a lot," Larue said. "It's a success."

Theft from hallway lockers and physical education changing rooms also is down, said a third 11th grader, Travis Collins, 16.

"In Grade 9 pretty well everything got stolen from lockers," Collins said.

One big success was the return of $400 (US$300) in cash and checks stolen from the school's athletic leadership program, House said.

Within about 24 hours, following tips from students and a few stern telephone calls, the envelope containing the stolen money was quietly slipped under the office door, he said.

"The kids were abuzz about this because this was a very popular teacher and a popular program," he said. "The teacher, she was just in tears, she was so happy."

Rewards are usually $10 or $20 (US$7.50 to $15), but sometimes the school will offer $50 (US$37.50) to try to solve a problem quickly, House said.

Simon Fraser University criminology professor Neil Boyd praised the community building aspect but expressed concern about the rewards.

"People should be encouraged to report willful damage to property or theft or assault because they are concerned about the collective well-being of others, not because there are financial rewards," Boyd said. "It's inappropriate to offer a financial reward. It may motivate people to act like Big Brother."

Source: http://www.kgw.com/sharedcontent/APStories/stories/D81FG56O1.html