The Baton Rouge, La., Crime Stoppers organization is buying liability insurance designed to protect its board members from lawsuits.
The decision to get the insurance, which costs about $2,000 annually, was not because of a recent lawsuit filed against the organization by Dianne Alexander, a woman thought to be the only surviving victim of accused serial killer Derrick Todd Lee, said Crime Stoppers executive director Sid Newman.
“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Newman said. “We’re just trying to do due diligence to protect ourselves in the future.”
Crime Stoppers organizations typically offer cash rewards to gather information on major crimes. However, disputes over large rewards sometimes wind up in court.
Alexander, who testified in two trials against Lee, filed a lawsuit in March against Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers and Lafayette Crime Stoppers, seeking $150,000 offered for information leading to Lee’s arrest. Lee was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Newman said $100,000 of the reward was made up by private funds and is no longer in the hands of Crime Stoppers.
Of the $50,000 reward offered by Lafayette Crime Stoppers, $25,000 was offered by the city’s Chamber of Commerce and the rest was from Crime Stoppers, said the organization’s coordinator, Lafayette police Cpl. Mark Francis said.
Francis said Crime Stoppers, as a matter of policy, does not pay reward money to victims of the crime the reward money is offered to solve.
But Clayton Burgess, Alexander’s attorney, said the reward was for tips leading to arrests and convictions in a number of murders, not just the crime against Alexander.
“She’s not asking for money for her case,” Burgess said.
Richard Carter, executive director of Crime Stoppers International Inc., said the larger the reward, the more likely it is that a claim or lawsuit will be filed.
“The large rewards are not recommended by Crime Stoppers as they cause problems for the prosecution, provide a motive to fabricate for some and disrespect the lives and dignity of crime victims by causing the public to think that some victims are more important than others,” Carter said.
Carter said that while the number of civil suits against Crime Stoppers organizations is low, the lawsuits are steady. As a result, the international organization recommends that Crime Stoppers boards either obtain liability insurance or maintain a legal defense reserve fund, he said.
Information from: The Advocate, www.theadvocate.com.
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