Heard the one about the man making £500 a time sitting in the pub reporting drink-drivers? Maybe you even know the names of people suspected of doing it regularly to rake in the cash, even shopping friends? Well relax and don’t be so paranoid because it is just a rural myth repeated up and down the country.
The truth, in Shetland at least, is that drink-drivers are certainly being shopped, not for money but either as a public service to keep death off the roads or to deliberately get someone into trouble.
Crimestoppers, the charity which accepts anonymous calls reporting offenders, does sometimes pay rewards for information leading to the arrest and charging of suspects. But it has not paid a penny to anyone in Shetland for at least three years and is not likely to pay out for catching drunks who get behind the wheel.
Crimestoppers revealed it only received 24 “actionable” calls from Shetland between 2006 and 2009 about various types of crime, leading to just two arrests: one for housebreaking, the other during the past year for drug possession.
In the rest of Scotland a total of 503 people were arrested and charged last year through Crimestopper information. A spokeswoman for the charity said “actionable” calls were those with useful information to pass on to the police.
The police do not pay cash rewards either, at least in the Northern Constabulary area, although they do pass on information from businesses and individuals who have put up a reward in relation to a particular crime. A spokeswoman for the force said it had to be careful how it spent the public money which funds the police.
Crimestoppers is part of an international network and has been going for 21 years in the UK. It prides itself on protecting the anonymity of those who give information, claiming to have not compromised any caller’s identity. A caller is not asked any personal information and no record is kept of their number or whether they are male or female. For grave crimes, like murder, it can pay up to £10,000 for crucial information. Rewards for lesser crimes vary and are paid on the merits of each case. However, less than two per cent of those who could claim an award actually do so.
Most calls to the organisation are with drugs-related information with on average 16 actionable calls on the issue each day in Scotland.