In police procedurals media coverage and rewards are often depicted as resulting in a huge number of false reports. Often depicting hundreds or in extreme cases thousands of false tips.

Do any actual numbers exist to back this up this depiction?

If the onslaught of false tips from are as bad as often depicted it seems like reward/bounties should not be offered, and media coverage should be kept low key as possible.

Is there any hard data that correlates the amount of useful/false information received with either the size of a reward, or media coverage?

  • 1
    There's "The Effective Use of the Media in Serious Crime Investigations" which is interesting, although it doesn't have much in the way of numbers - library.npia.police.uk/docs/hopolicers/fprs120.pdf
    – Tom77
    Jan 5, 2013 at 10:54
  • I’ve never heard such statistics. I have, however, heard something of the opposite (although it’s not an incompatible claim): namely that extensive media coverage has often helped identify the perpetrator where lack of media coverage would never have solved the case. So maybe the huge number of false positives is a (relatively) cheap price to pay. In fact, your second to last paragraph is simply a non sequitur. Jan 5, 2013 at 17:51
  • at first I thought you were asking about Tip Jars in police stations :S
    – Ian
    Jan 31, 2013 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


Google found me these statistics for the police department of Hampton, Virginia. Only one data point, and far from definitive, and not aimed at solving one big case with lots of media coverage, but here is the key quote:

The success of the Peninsula Crime Line between 1997 and 2008 can be illustrated through a few statistics. The total number of calls received was 9,704 resulting in 1,115 arrests solving 1,698 cases. The total dollar value of stolen property recovered and illegal drugs seized were $910,657. The total rewards paid during these 12 years totaled $242,725.

So there were about three calls a day, and about one in nine resulted in an arrest (probably more if we assume there was more than one call about some cases).

Here is another result for Shropshire, UK, with figures not too far away from that.

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    I wonder how many of these cases would have remained unsolved without the tips.
    – Ian
    Jan 31, 2013 at 16:54

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