Information that leads to an arrest in a sex trafficking case is now worth $10,000, thanks to private donors and a new initiative of Omaha Crime Stoppers.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said enhanced rewards given in connection with other serious crimes have improved arrest clearance rates and reduced crime. He said he hopes the larger reward announced Friday will help combat sex trafficking.
“Crime Stoppers has been an integral part of solving crimes in the city of Omaha for many years,” he said. “You may not hear about it, you may not see it ... but sex trafficking does occur here.”
Crime Stoppers usually pays between $50 and $1,000 for information about most crimes. But it has increased payouts for tips on 10 different criminal acts, now including sex trafficking. For example, information that leads to an arrest in connection with a homicide can pay $25,000; for bank robberies, it’s $20,000.
Since the organization started offering the enhanced rewards in 2014, anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers have helped solve 20 homicides, 18 shootings and multiple bank robberies and led to the recovery of dozens of illegal firearms, said Crime Stoppers President Eric Bildt. More than $1 million in rewards have been approved since 2014.
Bildt said when tipsters call the hotline, someone at a Canadian call center answers and takes the information. The tipster never has to give his or her name and is given a code with instructions on how to collect the money if the payout is approved.
Even after the money is rewarded, Bildt said, no one from the organization, the donors or the Omaha Police Department knows the tipster’s identity.
Christon MacTaggart, the Freedom from Violence project director at the Women’s Fund of Omaha, said the reward can provide a financial incentive for people who may know about sex trafficking or who may have been trafficked themselves and need money to help escape safely.
“We know that exploitation and trafficking exist on a spectrum and is deeply rooted in other inequities including economic security, which is a significant factor in the ability of a trafficking survivor to access safety,” MacTaggart said. “Our communities are safer when individuals feel supported to come forward and report crimes.”
Sex trafficking occurs every day in Omaha, she said.
According to a report published by the Women’s Fund, an average of 675 people are sold for sex per month in Omaha. The National Human Trafficking Hotline says 62 human trafficking cases were reported in Nebraska in 2019, and 348 cases have been reported since 2007.
Crime Stoppers so far has $100,000 allotted for sex trafficking tips. Organizers said they will continue to raise more money to fund the rewards.
“We do have the money in the bank and can start paying these rewards now,” Bildt said.
If multiple tips point to one suspect, Bildt said, the first tip with a name or the best information will receive the payout.
Anonymous tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers at 402-444-STOP, through the P3 Tips mobile app or online at omahacrimestoppers.org. If people suspect someone is being trafficked or they are being victimized themselves, they may call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.