MODESTO -- A few weeks ago, you might have seen a four-paragraph story about several cats that were shot with small crossbow darts in a Newman neighborhood.
Yes, a crossbow. It might seem a bit "Braveheart" in terms of antiquated weaponry, but shooting pets is cowardly under any circumstances.
Four of the cats survived, all reported wounded Jan. 26. Since then, a fifth cat owner told authorities her cat was killed in December, also by a crossbow dart.
In an effort to solve these crimes, Sacramento-based nonprofit RedRover on Friday offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and arraignment of the perpetrator. Newman residents added $500, raising the bounty on the bowman to $3,000.
Whenever such a reward is posted, you wonder if it will really make a difference. Will money lure the kinds of tips and information needed to solve that particular case?
Rewards have been effective in solving people versus people crimes because they draw attention to a case or otherwise keep it on the public's radar.
Carla Castro, who administrates Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers, said the nonprofit has paid roughly $47,000 in rewards since its inception in June 2005. Amounts range from $100 to $1,000, depending on the type of crime, and Crime Stoppers has paid the higher amount in helping solve 22 murders in this county.
More commonly, it pays for information leading to arrests involving outstanding warrants and drug cases. Larceny-theft and parolees at large rank third and fourth, respectively. It's helped solve one arson case, but no rapes.
The program has recovered more than $1,700 in property.
All of Crime Stoppers' reward money comes from donations, including $240,000 bequeathed by the Carole Sund-Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation when it dissolved in 2009. The foundation was established after the murders of three Yosemite tourists, and in its decade of existence made good on 47 rewards totaling $250,000. Those rewards helped solve murder and missing persons cases.
The governor's office occasionally offers $50,000 rewards to solve those kinds of cases as well, including the disappearance of Vanessa Smith from Winton in 1997 and the murders of Oakdale's Joey Ross in 2006 and Riverbank's Donald Norwood in 1995. Those and other cases remain unsolved.
In fact, police and sheriff's detectives assigned to cold case investigations enjoy a better success rate locally than the high-dollar state-funded rewards.
Rewards for crimes against pets and other animals? In reality, crimes against animals which are also crimes against animal owners rarely are investigated and prosecuted because authorities have enough to do solving what two-legged animals do to each other.
RedRover spokeswoman Karen Brown said the organization, founded in 1987, began offering rewards nearly 20 years ago. It has paid out only twice.
"That's not to say crimes have been solved only twice," she said. "They've been solved through other means. Our goal is to raise everyone's consciousness that these crimes need to be taken seriously."
Crime Stoppers' Castro said she recently received a couple of tips, and forwarded them to Newman police.
Hence, a $3,000 bounty might just help bring a cowardly crossbow- wielding cat assassin to justice.
Police ask anyone with information about the case to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Tipsters can email through the Crime Stoppers website, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.