What to Know
- Crime Stoppers in South Florida received 37,334 anonymous tips since 2015.1,004 of those tips lead to rewards. That’s 3.3 percent.
- Not remaining anonymous and not being the tip police use are two reasons why a reward wouldn't be given.
- In Miami-Dade, only 44 percent of the available reward money was collected. More than half was not picked up.
You hear it all the time: call Crime Stoppers!
The non-profit group takes anonymous tips on crimes in an effort to get criminal off the streets. But the NBC 6 Investigators have found few people who provide a tip end up collecting reward money. Some don’t pick up reward money they’ve earned but most others don’t because their tip didn’t meet the criteria set by Crime Stoppers to qualify for a reward.
The latter was the case for a couple who says they gave the identity of a suspected bank robber but didn’t get a reward.
On May 15, the FBI sent out a news release with surveillance photos from a bank robbery alleging the same woman walked into two banks and demanded money. They provided photos of the woman who was wearing a white New York baseball cap, distinctive glasses, jeans and black sneakers.
NBC6 ran the photos on TV and at NBC6.com.
A local couple, who asked not be identified on TV, say they recognized the woman and wanted police to know who it was.
“We saw what occurred with the bank robbery and we saw it on NBC 6 on the website,” the man said. “We watched the video and when we watched the video the person that did the robbery looked very familiar.”
So, they say they called Wilton Manors Police, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. They say they also submitted a tip on the app for Crime Stoppers of Broward County and got a code to track their tip.
Six days later, the bank robbery suspect was back on NBC6.
The FBI reported Cristina Rossi had been arrested.
She’s since been charged with bank robbery.
The federal court records outline a timeline of what happened. Prosecutors allege she entered the SunTrust Bank on Powerline Road in Fort Lauderdale at 1:39 p.m. with a note written on a piece of notebook paper that read “I Need To Feed my 5 Kids DO NOT PANIC put all The money in a Bag No Die PAKS I Need all The money NO sudden moves Keep Hands where I can see Them.”
The charging form goes on to say that after a teller asked the woman to remove her hat and glasses, the woman left the bank without taking any money.
Federal prosecutors allege the same note was handed to a teller at the Wells Fargo in Wilton Manors at 2:15 p.m. The teller handed over $1,253.
Rossi has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges she faces.
After the arrest, the couple who contacted NBC6 said they were expecting a call about reward money for the accurate tip they provided.
“Okay, so are they going to call us because we gave them the information,” the husband wondered.
When no call came, the woman called Wilton Manors Police to find out about the reward.
“They basically just said no, there is no reward,” the husband said.
Wilton Manors told us the couple’s tip was accurate and they had given the information to the FBI.
“We were able to reach out immediately to the lead investigative agency and provide them the information that was given to us by that caller,” Assistant Chief Gary Blocker said.
But Wilton Manors wasn’t offering a reward as the case was under federal jurisdiction.
Only Crime Stoppers would be likely to offer a reward for the right tip. The original news release sent out by the FBI urged anyone that recognized the woman to call Crime Stoppers.
“Your tip has to be the tip that leads the police to make an arrest that holds up,” Paul Jaworski, the president of Broward Crime Stoppers said.
The federal indictment indicates that tips were used to identify Rossi as the suspect.
One came from a probation officer who supervised a woman who “served time” in federal custody with Rossi. The woman reportedly identified Rossi. Prosecutors say another probation officer who himself supervised Rossi also identified her from the photos.
The FBI also said it got a tip from someone who knew Rossi from Piper High School in Sunrise.
The charges don’t list the tip from the couple as one that was used to identify Rossi.
Jaworski says the couple did something wrong when calling in the tip that would disqualify them from getting a reward.
He says because they called the police department from an identifiable number means they are no longer anonymous and cannot collect a Crime Stoppers reward.
“If they have called the information into the police first, for example, that would disqualify them for a Crime Stoppers reward tip because their identity is now known,” Jaworski said.
Crime Stoppers in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties report giving out $280,465 in rewards since 2015.
They received 37,334 anonymous tips in that time period.
1,004 of those tips lead to rewards.
That’s 3.3 percent of tips leading to rewards.
In addition to remaining anonymous, a person who provides a tip to Crime Stoppers has to be the first one and the information has to help lead to an arrest.
“If it’s the same information from two different people we might look at it from a time factor,” Jaworski said. “Who called in first?”
Jaworski says it can take weeks, even months for a reward to be paid out.
The couple who provided a tip about the bank robbery felt let down that they didn’t get a reward.
“We wanted to keep the community safe but you know, we wanted the reward as well,” the man said. “And then to find out, thanks for doing what you did. Awesome. Pat on the back, and that’s it, you know, we were a little upset.”
They told us they don’t want what happened to discourage anyone from calling when they can help police.
Now they they could have improved their chance of collecting a reward by contacting Crime Stoppers first and letting them contact the law enforcement agency that’s investigating.
The FBI and the local agencies involved in locating Rossi told us they appreciated the public’s help and want the tips to keep coming.
They recognize that reward money isn’t the motivation for many.
In Miami-Dade, only 44 percent of the available reward money was collected. More than half was not picked up.
Crime Stoppers believes that’s because most people just want to do the right thing.