San Francisco questioning the effectiveness of cold case cash rewards

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) —The families of San Francisco’s cold case murder victims are calling for a fix in how tipsters can earn cash rewards for giving up key information.

The city offers the highest cash rewards in the country — up to $250,000 — yet there has not been a single payout in more than a decade.

“It’s kind of a slap in the face to all the families that their loved ones were murdered,” said Anna Oliver.

She is one of hundreds of family members who’ve spent years waiting for some progress. Her brother Pierre was beaten in 2008 and died of his injuries the following year.

“I don’t see resolution. It’s been so long,” said Oliver.

San Francisco has doled out about $360,000 in reward money in seven different cases, starting in 2001 with the last payout being in 2013.

“It’s time for them to step up and talk about this and try and help families to get some type of resolute action for their loved ones because this is not acceptable,” said Oliver.

And, the San Francisco Police Commission started doing exactly that Wednesday night.

“What I’d like to be able to do is look at what other jurisdictions are doing and see if they are doing things differently that are showing some success or promise,” said Vice President Max Carter-Oberstone.

The commission listened to a city report Wednesday, suggesting the city’s policy might be too restrictive.

“Not giving awards to anonymous tipsters and then requiring the tip lead to a conviction instead of just let’s say criminal charges being filed,” noted Carter-Oberstone, asking the head of SFPD’s homicide unit for some insight.

“I personally don’t have any concerns about anonymous tipsters being paid money to receive information,” said Lt. Kelvin Sanders, officer in charge of SFPD Homicide Unit. “I think it would be a big help for my unit personally to solve some of these cases and bring closure.”

Meanwhile, Chief William Scott is warning it’s about more than loosening up the rules. He says there’s a real fear of retaliation that must be solved.

“We have witness relocation through the state an those types of things, but they’re are in sync all the time,” said Chief Scott. “That’ a huge hurdle in particular for violence and homicides that are gang-related. People are afraid of what will happen if they get labeled a snitch, basically.”

The police commission says it will now be reaching out directly to other major cities to try and get more data on what’s working and not, before making any policy changes.

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