A reward is one of the most powerful motivators for anyone with pertinent information to come forward and assist an investigation. Therefore, as soon as possible, funds should be solicited to acquire as large an amount of reward money as is feasible. There are basically two types of contributions:
Anticipate potential problems setting up bank accounts because of tax reporting considerations.
Reward money should be deposited in a bank. If a checking account is used, at least 2 signatures should be required. Money donated for reward purposes should be kept separate from other donations.
You may want to set up a committee to make decisions regarding the reward. The committee could consist of 3 members - one from the Recovery Center, one from the family, and the third from law enforcement.
A reward may help in recovering a missing child or in apprehending an abductor/murderer. Someone with knowledge about the situation may be reluctant to come forward. Reasons for this reluctance are varied, but a reward may provide the incentive they need to overcome their reluctance.
Care must be exercised in managing large sums of reward money. In the rush to do things quickly, it is tempting to just put $xxxx Reward at the top of a flyer. This can lead to undesirable results. Imagine the following scenario: a poorly thought out flyer announces a large reward for the return of the missing child, a passerby locates the child's body, the passerby claims the reward. If this is allowed to happen, the reward is not available for the next phase - the arrest and conviction of the murderer.
A reward is a valuable tool. If a reward is offered, it is mandatory that it be carefully managed, just like other valuable tools.
Decisions involving the reward should be coordinated between the Recovery Center, law enforcement, and the family. Since laws vary from state-to-state, this guide can only discuss general considerations involving rewards. Local legal counsel is required. Counsel should consult with other organizations which offer rewards, such as Crime Stoppers or local child-find offices.
The reward objective may change through the duration of a missing child incident. Early on, the objective is probably the safe return of <child's name>. If the child is found, alive or dead, the objective may switch to information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who .... If the child is not found after a long period of time, the objective may switch to information leading to the return of <child's name> (note that safe has been removed).
It is inadvisable to advertise a reward sum that you don't have. Pledges for reward donations should be double-checked to ensure they are real. It is best to have cash in the bank, or a written/signed pledge.
Once you pick a reward amount, stick to it for a while. A slowly increasing reward may have the effect of delaying tips. People with information may be waiting for the next reward increase.
Be specific. We have seen examples where law enforcement made the determination - the chief of the xxxx division of the xxPD.
For example: - not to anyone involved in the crime - reserve the right to change the amount - reserve the right to cancel - expiration date
Seek legal counsel before finalizing and advertising any reward. Also coordinate with law enforcement and the family. The following is one format you may want to consider.
The top of the flyer should be short: $xxxx REWARD *
The * refers to fine print at the bottom of the flyer: A $xxxx reward will be paid for <objective>. <the decider> will determine to whom the reward is paid. Other restrictions apply
Make sure the other restrictions are clearly written and available to anyone who inquires.