We show their faces on TV all the time. They're the criminals, wanted by police - all you have to do is call in a tip to Crime Stoppers. You don't even have to leave your name. But, how does it work? And, who's getting paid by Crime Stoppers?
The men and women featured on the Crime Stoppers website are wanted for everything from robbery to drugs to identity theft. All you have to do is call them in and you could get that cold, hard cash in your pocket.
"Our rewards range all the way up to 1,000 dollars," said Eric Green, president of Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest. It's an organization made up of private individuals, dedicated to finding criminals and solving crime. The media helps, but their best tips come from the community.
Last year, Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest received 795 tips, solving 33 cases. Tipsters received more than $3,400 in cash rewards. Who got that money? Not even Crime Stoppers knows for sure.
"They don't have to give their name or their identity at all," said Green. "They're identified with a code name or a code number, a name that they made up or something."
And, that whole "you don't have to leave your name to be eligible for a cash reward" thing isn't just a tagline. Crime Stoppers doesn't know the names of its tipsters and won't reveal how they pay those nameless, faceless crime-fighters.
"That's a secret," Green said.
But, they do have a pretty good idea the type of people they're paying. A lot of those tipsters are likely to be featured on Crime Stoppers themselves.
"That's the lake, that's the river, that's the water we're fishing in," said Green.
In many cases, it's criminals, turning on each other for a little bit of cash in their pockets.
"We know that a lot of our tipsters are not angels," says Spokane Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Reagan. "Some of them are going after the reward so they can get that next dose of drugs. That's okay. If that 50 dollars or 100 dollars solves one of our significant crimes, we don't care about the tipster's motive."
And if the Crime Stoppers program proves one thing, it's that there's no honor among thieves.
"We've had moms rat out their sons and daughters. We've had brothers rat out their sisters. Ex-wives, ex-girlfriends are an excellent source of information for law enforcement," said Sgt. Reagan.
In the end, as long as crimes are solved, Crime Stoppers says it doesn't really matter who's doing the cash-inspired tattling. And, the system - with half a million arrests nationwide - seems to be working.