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Is ‘bounty’ right choice of word?

The recent Guest Commentary about Crime Stoppers was illuminating. I was not aware of the “Illegal Gun Bounty Reward” or how frequently Crime Stoppers assists law enforcement in solving homicides and seizing illegal guns through their “cash for tips” program.

I praise local efforts to reduce gun violence, and the Crime Stoppers model produces positive results. However, the organization’s name and continued use of the term “bounty” are stunningly retrograde and tone deaf.

Throughout history, many petty offenses or so-called deviant behaviors have been criminalized, especially for marginalized groups. Reluctantly, when people hear about “Crime Stoppers,” they imagine 911 being called on Black neighbors over noise complaints, teenagers being “frisked” for smelling vaguely like marijuana and homeless people being arrested for sleeping in parks.

Still, offering cash rewards for tips seems to work. But by referring to these as bounties, i.e. sums “paid for killing or capturing a person or animal,” the organization perpetuates the same retributive ideas that underpin revenge killings in C-U and our criminal-justice system broadly.

Why would a progressive organization, local business or heart-stricken parent cooperate with or donate to an organization that uses dog whistles and violent imagery to promote their “anti-violence” work? Too many people with valuable information and resources will never engage with Crime Stoppers.

It doesn’t need to be this way. I urge Champaign County Crime Stoppers to engage relevant stakeholders in conversations aimed at updating their organization’s mission, terminology/branding and values. More community guardians are needed, not bounty hunters.



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