Money is tight all around these days, and this week I was reminded about an easy way for somebody to pick up some quick cash.
All you need is the right information about recent crime sprees around Roanoke.
Call and tell the cops who did them. You don’t have to give your name. And if your tip leads to an arrest, you could score up to $1,000.
You would also be an anonymous hero to scores of regular folks who have suffered the indignity and hassle of shot-out car windows, spray-painted vehicles, damaged garages and stolen license tags.
Those numbers have been adding up in recent months, mostly thanks to some stupid and thoughtless punks.
Let us review:
- Late at night during the weekend of Feb. 12-13, they shot out 59 car windows in Raleigh Court, Old Southwest and south Roanoke, plus some more in Roanoke County and Salem. The damage in Roanoke alone totaled more than $20,000.
- In March, thieves stole 18 license plates off nine cars parked in southeast Roanoke. (Since Feb. 1, tags have been stolen off 28 cars in the city, said Roanoke police Capt. Monti Lee, who heads the department’s criminal investigations.)
- On the weekend of April 16-17, vandals sprayed graffiti on 23 cars, trucks and SUVs in northwest Roanoke. Some of those messages were racist slurs.
- On May 10, seven more cars parked along Longwood Avenue Northwest had squiggly lines painted on them.
- Also this month, spray-paint vandals left their dirty work on three garages and one fence along Maiden Lane in Raleigh Court.
Short of parking in a home garage (if there is one), there’s little car owners can do to prevent these outrages. Sometimes parking in a driveway is enough of a deterrent, Lee said.
Police have made no arrests in any of these crimes. But they surely would like to.
The cops don’t necessarily believe that the same idiots are responsible for all these sprees. The BB gun vandals probably aren’t the people spray-painting cars.
And the racist slugs who spray-painted cars parked in northwest Roanoke in April may be a different crew from ones who sprayed squiggly lines in May, and from the ones who damaged the garages in Raleigh Court.
It’s possible the license tag thieves are scraping registration stickers off the tags and selling the stickers. If that’s the case, at least they have a profit motive.
The jerks who are shooting out windows or painting cars and garages are doing it for cheap thrills.
In prior vandalism sprees, police have caught the culprits.
This generally happens in one of two ways: The cops stop somebody and notice a BB gun or can of spray paint about the time of a spree, and one thing leads to another. That’s more or less luck combined with good police work.
The other way it happens is when the offender-punks brag about it to their pals and somebody turns them in.
“It’s just human nature to talk,” Lee said.
Which gets us back the opportunities that exist for certain people in the know to make money, cloak-and-dagger style.
The tipster can call back with additional information under that number, or to check if an arrest has been made.
If it has, police refer the case to the Crime Line board, which decides how much money the tipster deserves, up to $1,000. The money comes from private donations.
Crime Line issues a check at a particular Roanoke Valley bank, and the tipster is directed to that branch and to a particular teller there.
When the tipster utters the secret code number, the teller takes the check, cashes it on the spot and hands over the money.
So look at it this way: If you know the scoundrels who’ve been hassling good and honest Roanoke Valley residents in recent months, you can put some money in your pocket.
It could also help the victims, because courts often order restitution.
Only the vandals are the losers.
But we already knew that, right?