Do you have information you want to give to police, but don’t want to get involved in the case? Why not text your tips completely anonymously?
For the past few years, police departments across the country have rolled out text-a-tip programs aimed at making giving crime tips easy and anonymous. Tipsters who believe they have information that might help police can text local numbers, which police read and act upon. Already texted tips have proven helpful in reducing and preventing crime.
The first city to heavily promote text-a-tip was Boston, and quickly proved to be a huge success. It is credited with helping solve several serious crimes, including the accidental shooting death of Lakeisha Gadson.
Officer Michael Charbonnier of the Boston Police department says that text-a-tip programs give people who might otherwise be scared to provide information to come forward.” It’s either call 911 or live with the bad guy. And if you call, there could be repercussions,” Charbonnier said. “So when they have this option of texting us — knowing no one will know who they are — well, now, people give us license plate numbers, they give us names,” he said.
The program is also being heavily promoted in high schools, where texting is the main means of communication. Police officers report that they regularly receive drug and gun tips from teenagers. In Colorado, a text-tip may have even prevented a school shooting.
In Douglas County, Colorado the sheriff’s office received a tip that a certain high school student had a “kill list.” Police who followed up later discovered a cache of weapons at the student’s home. “We did believe it was a credible threat,” said Phyllis Harvey, the administrator for the Text-A-Tip program for in Douglas County.
The success of text-a-tip programs have led to similar initiatives in smaller towns. In Conway, Arkansas, the program has helped nab four people with felony fugitive warrants, crack drug cases, and catch a credit card fraudster. La Tresha Woodruff of the Conway Police Department said, “We are in the age when this is how people choose to communicate. Even people who don’t care to be anonymous use it because they are used to sending information this way.”
Anonymity of tipsters is maintained by processing all the texts through a third party. The texts are sent to a private company that strips out all identifying information, which then relays just the tip itself to the police.
But the conversation doesn’t end there. If the police find that the tip may be useful to help solve or prevent a crime, they have the option of texting the person who sent the tip back. The tipster then can then provide more information to further help police.
Anderson Software, one of the leading providers of technology for text-a-tip programs, services over 400 police departments. Company founder Kevin Anderson said “You want to provide the means of communication people are most comfortable with, and right now, texting is the more comfortable means of communicating for young people.”
Want to offer you own tip to police? While most police departments use 274637 (CRIMES) for their text-a-tip line, the number may vary based upon your jurisdiction. Visit your local police department’s website to see what number they use. Who knows? Your next text could lead to lengthening some criminal’s arrest record. Between police departments with their own Facebook pages, and these new text-a-tip programs, I’d say crime fighting has officially evolved into the twenty-first century.
This is a guest post by Logan Strain, a writer for the pbulic record service Instant Checkmate. His life has improved considerably since going on an unlimited texting phone plan.
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