Berkeley Police Department will now be able to pay up to $50,000 to community members who provide information on unsolved crimes, the Berkeley City Council decided at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The measure is designed to incentivize new leads on cases that have remained unsolved for years by upping the maximum reward amount from $15,000 to $50,000. The last time the reward amount was increased was in 1998 — since then, more than a dozen cases remain unsolved. In situations in which BPD intends to pay out a reward, the police chief must submit a confidential memorandum to the city manager to request authorization for the payment. But, since the reward amount was increased in 1998, only one case has ended in a reward payout from the city.
Emphasizing why these unsolved cases might benefit from an increased reward, the family of Alex Goodwin Jr. — a Berkeley musician who was shot at San Pablo Park in August 2016 — spoke at the meeting in favor of increasing the reward.
“The money would help. I know that some people might not understand why, and (reporting information) should just be out of the kindness of your heart — you’re a Berkeley resident, just help the police out,” said Kameka Goodwin, Alex Goodwin’s mother, at the meeting. “The streets doesn’t really work like that, the streets where we live.”
District 2 Councilmember Cheryl Davila thanked the family for sharing their stories, adding that she understood their pain given her experience of losing her brother-in-law in a similar shooting. A $5,000 reward was offered in this case but remains unsolved.
The measure also expands rewards to cases beyond murder, which were the only crimes formerly included. Previously, BPD collaborated with Bay Area Crime Stoppers — a community organization that pays a standing reward of $3,000 for tips that lead to the arrest or indictment in cases of felony crimes. This partnership ensured that BPD received information regarding crimes such as sexual assault or robberies, for which it did not previously offer rewards.
Though Crime Stoppers still operates in other communities, the Bay Area Crime Stoppers’ service “is no longer available,” according to the measure. To compensate for the money it previously provided, the bill now gives BPD the means to grant rewards for tips regarding less egregious felony cases.
At the meeting, Kameka Goodwin said having this incentive to share information with the police would greatly encourage people to come forward. It would, for example, provide money for the relocation of family members potentially threatened by the parties who committed the crimes.
“Having this increase could be a stepping stone for someone to possibly come forward testify and then be able to relocate,” said Kameka Goodwin.