Opinion: Paid snitching

POSTED: 08/17/11 11:32 AM

Rotterdam is thinking seriously about paying citizens for reporting people who destroy public property. A member of the municipal council picked up the idea in Berlin, where snitches earn as much as $860 for a tip that reveals the identity of vandals.
The idea of Labor Party council member Peter van Heemst is to encourage people to snap pictures of vandals in action with their cell phones.
Hmm. We picture this in our mind. A group of drunk and aggressive youngsters are in the process of demolishing the Claude Wathey statue on Clem Labega Square. A mother on social benefits happens to pass by with her 3-year-old daughter. Eager to pick up some extra cash from the government, she pulls out her cell phone and starts taking pictures.
What do you think those vandals are going to do? Are they going to ask the welfare-mom to take extra pictures and put them on Facebook? Or are they going to tell the lady in unprintable street gang lingo to take hand over the camera and to remove herself from the scene on the double?
We don’t even like the welfare mom’s chances of getting away from the scene unhurt. Vandals don’t have a highly developed sense of social etiquette and they will be aware of the fact that those pictures are gonna cost them.
So, to sum it up, encouraging law-abiding citizens to take pictures of vandals in action in exchange for a measly reward is a pretty bad idea, unless the offer includes coverage for medical treatment. And even then: who wants to risk life and limbs so that the government can go after a bunch of hoodlums who’ve been beating up a statue?
And then the futility of it all: most street urchins don’t even seem to have money to buy a belt to hold up their trousers. So how is the government going to squeeze money out of them to pay for the damages they have caused?
We’re curious to see whether Rotterdam is going to introduce this measure and how many people will end up in a hospital as a result of it.

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