Netherlands anonymous tip line sells anonymous tips: report

The Netherlands' anonymous tip line Meld Misdaad Anoniem does not only pass tips on to the police, but also sells them to other parties. This makes the foundation around half a million euros per year, De Groene Amsterdammer reports based on its own research.

The tips are mostly sold to municipalities, but also to insurers, energy companies and even the Tax Authority, according to the weekly magazine. These customers pay the tip line a fixed monthly amount, and an amount per tip.

According to Titus Visser, director of the foundation behind the tip line, they have no other choice. "We are forced to look for money", he said. The foundation receives 1.1 million euros annually from the government, but its costs are around 1.6 million euros, according to Visser. "We have to scrape the rest together."

The tips are sold to "parties that also want to contribute to tackling crime", Visser said. "The police can not do it alone, other parties are also needed." He thinks it is important for municipalities to have an 'independent information position'. "That way they can also contribute to tackling serious crime from their administrative perspective", Visser said. "We can help them by giving that information. I think that's great."

A number of experts expressed their concern about this practice to De Groene Amsterdammer. "Meld Misdaad Anoniem is commercializing criminal detection", criminal lawyer Jan Boone, whose been fighting against the anonymous tip line since its opening in 2003, said. "That is completely unacceptable.

Professor Gerrit-Jan Zwenne fears that this practice puts the reliability of the tips at risk. "Perverse incentives may arise in order to make the product as attractive as possible. So there is a risk that less attention will be paid to certain guarantees."

Professor Henny Sackers of Radboud University Nijmegen called the selling of tips an "undesirable revenue model" that comes at the expense of quality. "It is now simply about money, and then perhaps the less reliable tips are also passed on, because there is a contract."