Results for “bounty hunter”
39 found

Bounty Hunter the Dog

I posted earlier on a NYC program where idling cars can be reported to earn a share of the fine. Tapei has just started a similar program to earn a share of the fine assessed on people who don’t pick up their dog’s poop.

As before the virtue of efficiency in the prosecution of the laws depends on the quality of the law.

Hat tip: Michael Story.
Addendum: Here’s my paper on bounty hunters.

Bounty Hunters Work

New York pays bounty hunters for documenting parked trucks that idle their engines more than 3 minutes.

NYTimes. [The] Citizens Air Complaint Program, a public health campaign that invites — and pays — people to report trucks that are parked and idling for more than three minutes, or one minute if outside a school. Those who report collect 25 percent of any fine against a truck by submitting a video just over 3 minutes in length that shows the engine is running and the name of the company on the door.

The program has vastly increased the number of complaints of idling trucks sent to the city, from just a handful before its creation in 2018 to more than 12,000 last year.

…Mr. Slapikas said he pulled in $64,000 in rewards in 2021 for simply paying attention on his daily walks for exercise: “I would expect to get three a day without even looking.”

Who would have thought it? Bounty hunters are more effective than the police at discovering crimes. Imagine if they applied such a system to accused criminals out on bail?

Of course, as with tax-farming we don’t always want efficiency in the prosecution of the laws.

Bounty hunter markets in everything?

The farming and ranching town of Deer Trail, Colorado, is considering paying bounties to anyone who shoots down a drone.

Next month, trustees of the town of 600 that lies on the high plains, 55 miles (34km) east of Denver, will debate an ordinance that would allow residents to buy a $25 hunting licence to shoot down “unmanned aerial vehicles”.

…”We don’t want to become a surveillance society,” he [Phillip Steel, the architect of the proposal] told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said he had not seen any drones, but that “some local ranchers” outside the town limits had.

Under the proposal, hunters could legally shoot down a drone flying under 1,000 feet with a 12-gauge or smaller shotgun.

The town would also be required to establish a drone “recognition programme” for shooters to properly identify the targeted aircraft.

“In no case shall a citizen engage an obviously manned aerial vehicle,” the draft proposal reads.

It is admitted that the idea is a symbolic one and may not pass.  But perhaps teachers in particular should be encouraged to participate?  The story is here, via Michelle Dawson.

Here are Alex’s earlier posts on bounty hunters.

Bone Marrow Bounty Hunters

Amit Gupta has leukemia and needs to find a  bone-marrow transplant. Gupta is the founder of the do-it-yourself photography site Photojojo and the collaborative-working community Jelly and many of his high-tech friends have jumped to his aid including Seth Godin. Here’s Virginia Postrel:

[Godin offered] to pay $10,000 to anyone who became a match for Gupta and made the stem-cell donation, or to give the money to that person’s favorite charity. The offer, he says, was “a chance to say to my readers, ‘Hey, I care about this. A lot. Money where my mouth is.’”

He picked $10,000 because, he says, it’s “enough money to matter to both the giver and the recipient, without being enough money to sue over, cheat over or corrupt.”

Gupta’s friend Michael Galpert, one of the co-founders of the photo-editing site, quickly matched Godin’s offer. “I would do anything that could contribute to helping save his life,” he says.

With $20,000 at stake, the cause did indeed take on new urgency….There was only one problem. The offer was illegal.

Paying a marrow donor is currently illegal under the same law that makes paying organ donors illegal, despite the fact that marrow donation (technically blood stem cells from marrow) is much more like blood donation or egg donation than donating a kidney. (To avoid the law Godin has modified his offer.) Fortunately, the law might be overturned.

In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban on valuable consideration for bone-marrow donations. The suit was brought by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, on behalf of plaintiffs who include patients, parents of sick children, a doctor who does bone- marrow transplants and a charity that would like to offer incentives, such as scholarships, to encourage more donations.

The lawsuit argues that since marrow cell transplants aren’t significantly different from blood transfusions, the federal government has no “rational basis” for outlawing the kind of compensation that is perfectly legal not only for blood but also for other regenerating tissues, such as hair and sperm, not to mention eggs, which don’t regenerate. This disparate treatment of essentially similar processes, it maintains, violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. A decision could come down any day.

Bounty Hunters in Korea

Fascinating article in the NYTimes about Korean “paparazzi,” camera-wielding bounty hunters who film people committing small crimes and then turn the evidence in for a bounty:

The opportunities are everywhere: a factory releasing industrial waste into a river, a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked, doctors and lawyers not providing receipts for payment so that they can underreport their taxable income.

Mr. Im’s pet target is people who burn garbage at construction sites, a violation of environmental laws.

“I’m making three times what I made as an English tutor,” said Mr. Im, 39, who began his new line of work around seven years ago and says he makes about $85,000 a year….

The outsourcing of law enforcement has also been something of a boon for local governments. They say that they can save money on hiring officers, and that the fines imposed on offenders generally outstrip the rewards paid to informers. (The reward for reporting illegal garbage dumping: about $40. The fine: about 10 times as much.)

For most infractions, rewards can range from as little as about $5 (reporting a cigarette tosser) to as much as $850 (turning in an unlicensed seller of livestock). But there are possibilities for windfalls. Seoul’s city government promises up to $1.7 million for reports of major corruption involving its own staff members.

The system appears to work well, if you take the goals as given. The goals, of course, are where the trouble lies. Tax-farming was efficient but was it a good idea? (Is it a good idea today in developing countries? Compare here with here and consider a recent proposal for tax farming in Greece.) Private prisons reduce costs but given the law of demand how much do we want to reduce the price of imprisoning people?  (See Bruce Benson’s paper in my book, Changing the Guard.) All else equal, it’s more efficient to tax goods with inelastic demands but give government the right to tax such goods and all else will not be equal, leviathan will tax more.

The bounties, however, are only part of the issue. More fundamentally, what we are seeing is the ubiquity of surveillance. I have mixed feeling about this transformation but given technology it is inevitable. What we can do, however, is to ensure that the surveillance goes all ways. The government surveils us both directly and with the help of the junior bounty hunters but we must guard our rights to also surveil them.

Hat tip: Maxim Lott.

An Economist among the Bounty Hunters

Andrew Luster had it all: a multimillion-dollar trust fund, good looks, and a bachelor pad just off the beach in Mussel Shoals, California. Luster, the great-grandson of cosmetics legend Max Factor, spent his days surfing and his nights cruising the clubs. His life would have been sad but unremarkable if he had not had a fetish for sex with unconscious women. When one woman alleged rape, Luster claimed mutual consent, but the videotapes the police discovered when they searched his home told a different story. Eventually, more than 10 women came forward, and he was convicted of 20 counts of rape and sentenced to 124 years in prison. There was only one problem. Luster could not be found….

That is the opening to my piece, The Bounty Hunter's Pursuit of Justice, in the latest issue of The Wilson Quarterly. I discuss bounty hunters, the bail bond industry and my own adventures bounty hunting in Baltimore.

Dog the Bounty Hunter

Check out Dog the Bounty Hunter, the latest reality-tv show on, believe it or not, A&E (Thursdays at 10/9C is the regular time-slot but it repeats often). As you know, I have a special interest in bounty hunters but the show is good entertainment. Surprisingly, it’s not just the chase that’s interesting but also the life-story of the arrestees and Dog and his family.

Bounty hunters for the IRS

Here is an interesting tidbit from the FTC report on spam bounty that I discussed earlier this week. The IRS has had a bounty system for tax cheats since 1967. In the first thirty years of the program more than seventeen thousand infomants earned $35.1 million, in the process helping the IRS to recover $1.2 billion. That’s a pretty good return, even if some of the ex-wives would have snitched anyway.

Microsoft hires bounty hunters

Microsoft has put up “two $250,000 rewards, a total of $500,000, for information that leads to the arrest of the writers of two nasty computer worms — the Blaster worm and SoBig.” I am all for this as those guys sure wasted some of my time. As regular readers will know, I am also a fan of bounty hunters (see my earlier post; and my econometric paper – finding that bounty hunters reduce failure to appear rates and bring back fugitives much more succesfully than the public police).

Bounty Hunters

The “bounty hunter” conference was fascinating. To be precise, I was invited to speak before the California Bail Agents Association which includes bail bond agents who write the bonds, surety/insurance companies who back the bonds as well as bail enforcement agents (aka bounty hunters) who recapture fugitives.

The bounty hunters were generally big guys but not so that you would notice on the street – these were not your Gold’s Gym type. A bounty hunter can always buy muscle but what they really need is smarts. A successful bounty hunter avoids excessive confrontation because every pickup is a lawsuit waiting to happen. One bounty hunter told me a big part of his success has been unfailing politeness.

Another key element is getting family members to cosign the bond – even hardened criminals don’t want to see Momma’s house taken should they fail to appear at trial.

It’s no coincidence that bail agents typically have their annual convention in Reno or Las Vegas but these are poker players not mindless feeders of the slot machine. (The distinction between these forms of gambling strikes me as important but to my knowledge has not been taken up by economists.)

Many of the “bondsmen”, perhaps even a majority, are women. Bondsmen must develop intuition and judgment about who is a flight risk and women may be particularly good at this. Also, although the defendant’s are usually men, its often their wives, girlfriends and mothers who bail them out and dealing empathetically with these women is a big part of the art – alas, repeat business is not uncommon.

As with other insurance industries, you can make a lot of money quickly by writing bail but trouble comes when your charges skip and their bail becomes forfeit. At least that is what is supposed to happen but – and I am surprised to be saying this – lax regulators and high-price lawyers can open a window of opportunity that makes bad bail writing potentially profitable. The problems this creates for the honest players in the industry was a big topic at the conference. I was impressed, however, that there was also a frank discussion about how to distinguish rules meant to weed out the fraudulent from anti-competitive rules. This is a topic I need to think more about.

I was asked to speak at the CBAA because of my paper on bounty hunters with Eric Helland (forthcoming in the Journal of Law and Economics). Here are some key facts and findings:

A whopping one-quarter of all felony defendants fail to appear at trial. Of these some thirty percent can’t be found after a year.

The police are overrun with unserved arrest warrants for failure to appear and typically devote little time to the task.

As a result, FTA appear rates are some 28% lower for those released on commercial bail compared to those released on their own recognizance.

When a defendant does FTA he is about 50% more likely to be caught and is caught much sooner if a bounty hunter is on his trail compared to if only the police are involved. (Both of these effects are after controlling for other relevant factors, of course).

Bounty Hunting, the sad part

The sky was dark as I drove to Baltimore to try my hand at bounty hunting; it was 5:15 am.  Fugitives from the law tend not be early-rising types so bounty hunters search homes in the morning and the streets at night.

Dennis, who has been in the business 21 years and has volunteered to show me the ropes, hands me a photo.  Our first fugitive is a surprise.  Taken a few years ago in better times, the photo is of an attractive young woman perhaps at her prom.  She has long, blond hair and bright eyes.  She is smiling. 

We drive to the house where a tip places her recently.  It’s a middle class home in a nice suburb.  Children’s toys are strewn about the garden.  I’m accompanied by Dennis and two of his co-workers, a former police officer and a former sherrif’s deputy.  One of them takes the back while Dennis knocks.  A women still in her nightclothes answers.  She does not seem surprised to have four men knocking at her door in the early morning.  She volunteers that we can search the house.  We enter and get the whole story.

"Chrissy" is her niece.  She was at the house two days ago and may return. Chrissy has had her life ruined by drugs.  Or, perhaps she has ruined her life with drugs – sometimes it’s hard to tell.  She is now a heroin addict whose boyfriend regularly beats her.  The aunt is momentarily shocked when we show her the photo.  No, she doesn’t look like that anymore – her hair is brown, her face is covered with scabs and usually bruised, she weighs maybe 85 pounds.  "Be gentle with her," the Aunt says even though "she will probably fight."

The Aunt gives us another location – Chrissy is living out of her car with her mother.  We are about to leave when the Aunt thanks us for being quiet, there’s a child in the house who was scared when the police last came.  The child is Chrissy’s son.

Spam Bounty

Last year, Larry Lessig and Representative Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) proposed a system of mandatory spam tags, i.e. something like mandatory use of [ADV] in the subject line and, as a method of enforcement, bounties for people who tracked down illegal spammers. Lessig liked the idea so much he offered to quit his job if the bill became law and didn’t substantially reduce spam. Now that’s a guy who believes in incentives!

Lessig won’t have to quit his job anytime soon, however. After studying the idea the FTC has recommended against bounties aimed at cybersleuths but they do allow that large bounties aimed at insiders could be useful.

Some of the FTCs objections are unclear. At one point they say that “potential informants who lack subpoena power, and who are not ‘insiders’ possessing personal knowledge of the spammer, are highly unlikely to possess or produce the kind of information deemed most useful to the Commission.” But elsewhere they say that cybersleuths “already provide useful information to the public for free, and may not be further motivated by the prospect of a monetary reward.” So which is it? Is the problem that the information provided by cybersleuths is not good enough or is it that the information is good but we already get it for free? Admittedly these sentences are not necessarily contradictory if one riffs on the distinction between the Commission and the public. It’s unclear to me, however, why the FTC resorts to speculation about the sort of information that cybersleuths can produce when some examples of what they have produced in the past would give us a better idea about what stronger incentives could accomplish.

The FTCs main objection is that they could not handle the resulting flow of mostly low-value information. The FTC already receives 300,000 forwarded spam-emails a day and doesn’t want a slew of further emails from bedroom bounty-hunters.

America’s Most Wanted, however, doesn’t offer rewards for the arrest of any criminal they offer rewards for ….America’s most wanted criminals. A spam bounty system could similarly limit the number of low-value tips by focusing rewards on the spammers responsible for the particular pieces of spam that went out to the most people – the FTCs database already has this information. Rewards could also be limited to sleuths offering specific information.

Large rewards for insiders are a good idea, Microsoft caught the author of the Sasser worm with help from bounties. I’d like to see some more research and experiment, however, before counting the cybersleuths out.

Addendum: More on real bounty hunters here.

Putting a Bounty on Osama

The gang over at Crooked Timber are having a good time laughing at James Miller’s suggestion to increase the bounty on Osama bin Laden.

I’m puzzled, don’t the gang know that the United States has been putting bounties on terrorists since 1984? Or that Qusay and Uday Hussein were located due to a reward – as was Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as was Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing as were the terrorists responsible for the destruction of Pan Am 103? Could the gang be unaware that in the United States bounty hunters have a better record than the public police both at preventing bail jumping and apprehending fugitives once they have jumped bail?

Regular readers of MR will, of course, be better informed. By the way, my paper on the US system, The Fugitive: Evidence on Public versus Private Law Enforcement from Bail Jumping has just been published in the Journal of Law and Economics or email me if you don’t have access to the JLE.

No man can be judge in his own case

Cash bail and bounty hunters can be an important and useful part of the criminal justice system. The practice in New Orleans, however, of funding court and judicial benefits with a tax on bail is obnoxious. In recent years, the tax on bail has funded 20-25% of the Judicial Expense Fund which is used to pay staff and office supplies, travel and other costs. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal was right to affirm that this tax violates a defendant’s due process rights because it gives judges an incentive to require bail for their own benefit rather than to incentivize the defendant’s court appearance.

“No man can be judge in his own case.” Edward Coke, INSTITUTES OF THE LAWS OF ENGLAND, § 212, 141 (1628). That centuries-old maxim comes from Lord Coke’s ruling that a judge could not be paid with the fines he imposed. Dr. Bonham’s Case, 8 Co. Rep. 107a, 118a, 77 Eng. Rep. 638, 652 (C.P. 1610). Almost a century ago, the Supreme Court recognized that principle as part of the due process requirement of an impartial tribunal. Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 523 (1927).

This case does not involve a judge who receives money based on the decisions he makes. But the magistrate in the Orleans Parish Criminal United States Court of Appeals District Court receives something almost as important: funding for various judicial expenses, most notably money to help pay for court reporters, judicial secretaries, and law clerks. What does this court funding depend on? The bail decisions the magistrate makes that determine whether a defendant obtains pretrial release. When a defendant has to buy a commercial surety bond, a portion of the bond’s value goes to a fund for judges’ expenses. So the more often the magistrate requires a secured money bond as a condition of release, the more money the court has to cover expenses. And the magistrate is a member of the committee that allocates those funds. Arrestees argue that the magistrate’s dual role—generator and administrator of court fees—creates a conflict of interest when the judge sets their bail. We [agree with the district court] that this dual role violates due process.

The plaintiffs also argued that judges must take into account a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail. The appeals court didn’t rule on that issue but ironically judges who get a percent of the proceeds from bail do have an incentive to take into account ability to pay because only paid bail generates revenues. Eliminating the judge’s cut eliminates the incentive to think about ability to pay. Still, I support the decision. We should try for first best. The theory of second best leads only to madness and ruin.