Smartphone app helps fight crime in Crow Wing County

Smartphone apps have uses ranging from checking the weather to watching movies to reading about the latest breaking news, and everything in between. Now Crow Wing County residents can download an app that lets them send crime tips to the sheriff’s department and communicate with local law enforcement from anywhere while remaining anonymous.

Tip411 is a program that has been gaining popularity in the lakes area over the last eight months. After downloading the CWCS Mobile app on an iPhone or Android device, users can simply submit anonymous tips relating to any criminal or suspicious activity directly to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office.

And that’s not all.

“The cool thing with this feature is people can still remain anonymous if they wish, but we’re allowed to communicate back with them. So that’s where we can add the additional questions,” said Capt. Scott Goddard, of the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office.

The app allows the investigator receiving the tips to respond to the tipster and ask follow-up questions.

“They’ll text us in something very vague, like, ‘Vehicles coming or going late at night from a residence,'” Goddard said. “And then our follow-up questions might be, ‘Well, can you give us descriptions of the vehicle?’ or ‘What times are the vehicles coming and going?'”

Read the full story from the Pineandlakes Echo Journal

Interview with Delhi Township: Part II

tip411 interviewed Chief Jim Howarth of the Delhi Township Police Department in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is part two of our three-part conversation.

PART II

Q: How has the tip411 system aided your department?
A:
tip411 has been well received by both my officers and our residents. It’s one of the best things that have happened to us – We can’t be everywhere all the time, but we have 30,000 residents that have eyes that can help us find things. It could be that 1 tip or call that solves a string of burglaries, and we need our residents help as much as they need ours.

When I took over as Police Chief in 2008, others before me didn’t think they needed to share information with the public. I think people need to know things do happen in Delhi, when they happen, and not wait a week to see it in the paper. We need to inform the public and push information out to have them help us solve crimes as they are happening, and we are doing that now thanks to tip411.

Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A:
When we put out surveillance pictures to try to identify who suspects are – whether it be for a theft, assault, armed robbery – there’s only 1 case I can remember where we’ve NEVER received any tips. All of the other hundreds of cases we’ve asked the public for help on we’ve received tips and were able to identify the suspect.

Literally within 5 minutes we’re getting tips with information. It’s tremendous as far as being able to recover property and hold criminals accountable.

One case I can remember was when we put out information after an elderly gentleman left his card in an ATM. We saw that the person that came to the ATM after him grabbed the card and then we traced that it was used at a nearby supermarket shortly thereafter. We put the suspect’s picture out around 7pm and 15 seconds later the clerk in my office asked me if I sent an alert. I told her I just hit send and she told me we had already received a tip from someone telling us they saw the alert, looked at the image, and realized it was a former coworker of theirs.

I don’t put out tons of stuff because I don’t want people to get tired of it, but I use it when we need to and it’s always been a great help. I also like to do follow up posts to let people know we were able to identify the suspect and solve a crime thanks to their help.

The only negative thing I’ve heard is…if we were to get rid of tip411, a lot of residents would be upset. Luckily, if we ever lost funding, I’m confident I could go to outside sourcing like business associations in our community because they love it and I’m sure they’d help us fund it.

Q: Your department also partners with Crime Stoppers. Can you talk about how you use Crime Stoppers and how tip411 can augment it?
A: They’re very similar in nature. Crime Stoppers give rewards out and for the most part tips that come through tip411 we don’t give out rewards. Sometimes while communicating back and forth through tip411 we realize the tipster may have good information but aren’t giving it up easy, so continue to get information we will say, “hey, if this pans out and we make an arrest, we will reach out to Crime Stoppers and get a reward for you.”

Most tips we get are coming in anonymously through tip411. I say anonymously but many people are comfortable putting their name and number in the message they send to us as well. More come through tip411 than via phone, but it’s a good mix.

Some people, I understand, are hesitant to contact police because they think there may be retribution for sharing information with us, but we have a community that wants to help and they do – dramatically. With tip411 there’s much less “us vs. them.” Residents now feel like they’re a part of the department.

 

Check back next week for the third and final part of our conversation with Chief Howarth. Missed Part I? Click here to read it.

Interview with Delhi Township: Part I

tip411 interviewed Chief Jim Howarth of the Delhi Township Police Department in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is part one of our three-part conversation.

PART I

Q: Tell us about your community and the Delhi Township Police Department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A:
Delhi Township covers 10.1 square miles and is just shy of 30,000 residents. Our department has 32 sworn officers and is open 8am-10pm each day. We are a “bedroom community” that sits on the Ohio River and borders the City of Cincinnati as well as Green Township, both of which use tip411 as well.

Being a suburb of Cincinnati, we deal with many big city crimes, just on a smaller scale. We have drug issues like most communities; we see domestic violence cases, car thefts, burglaries and robberies – Things that spill over from the city into our township. We don’t have much violent crime; averaging about one homicide every year or two.

We have an excellent relationship with the Cincinnati Police Department as well as the 47 other law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County. We rely on the Hamilton County Police Association for joint training exercises, joint SWAT Team operations, and more.

Q: How do you hear about tip411?
A:
We launched tip411 in 2011. I had been researching it for a few years before we signed on as I wanted to do my due diligence, but I first heard through the Cincinnati Police Department when I saw them using it.

When I was researching possible systems to use here in Delhi Township, what I was looking for was something that would help me get information out to residents in a timely manner, but also something that would be affordable and easy to use. This was important because I did not want to have to spend time training officers on a system they found too complicated to use as part of their daily duties.

Right away, I saw what I could do with tip411.

Q: How is tip411 administered in your department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A:
I put out alerts along with my investigative lieutenant. I use it for investigations but also for news sharing (promoting/hiring new staff, road closures, etc.) and all types of crimes.

All of my investigators receive tips as they come in and manage them to share information and communicate with the tipster to try to get more information.

To make sure our residents can find how to send us tips, we have links to our tip411 reporting form on our website, Facebook, and Twitter. We also use the Crime Map provided as part of our tip411 subscription to add share crime information with the public and allow people to submit tips through the information shown on the map.

We’re very fortunate as people in Delhi Township are willing to communicate with us to help fight crime, and even more people are now as they are less afraid due to being able to share information anonymously.

 

Check back next week for part II of our conversation with Chief Howarth.

Allentown police hope new app will help cut down on crime

The Allentown Police Department is leaning on technology to help them catch criminals.

On Wednesday, city leaders unveiled a new app that’s a first in our area.

The Allentown Police Department hopes the new app will help cut down on crime and keep people safe. The app pushes out alerts about what’s happening and even lets you send anonymous tips right on your phone.

“We can send alerts to the entire city. Our captains can send out alerts to their areas,” said Allentown Police Department’s Assistant Chief Gail Struss.

Here’s how it works:

Just download the app, called “Allentown PD,” for free from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store or the Allentown Police Department website.

Then look for crime alerts, or click tip and send information about cold cases or missing people. You can add pictures and videos too.

All tips are anonymous.

“I can respond to you but I have no idea who you are nor can I ever find out who you are because that information gets scrubbed before it ever gets to us,” Struss said.

Read the full story from WFMZ-TV and watch the report below:

Get a Custom Agency Smartphone App!

Step up to a tip411 Pro subscription to get access to all of the great features of tip411 Bundle, plus the new tip411 Mobile app. This innovate app allows you to create a customized, branded app for Android/iPhone that allows residents to send anonymous tips, access agency alerts, social media channels, important information, and more to help fight crime. Contact us for a quick demo.

“We now have tip411 Pro and our own smartphone app that allows us to not only receive tips, but push out information specific to particular crimes, allows us to share crime mapping information, links to important agency information, as well as our social media accounts.” – Major David Dalton, Clearwater, Florida Police

Promote, Promote, Promote!

The most successful agencies are those who hold press conferences to launch their system, regularly send alerts, hang posters around their community, distribute business cards with their tip411 information on it, and more. Need help? Reach out to our Public Relations Director for tips

“We try to feature it prominently on our website and we push it out as I said through Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. In every community alert that we send, we include our tip411 information. We put it on flyers, on crime alerts – just about anything we send to the public.” – Major David Dalton, Clearwater, Florida Police

Get Administrators Trained!

Nothing is worse than having your agency receive tips that aren’t being monitored and responded to in a timely manner. Make sure your staff is adequately trained and that tips are going to personnel who will be responsible for logging in, checking on tips, and starting a 2-way conversation with the tipster.

“At first, the Crime Analysis Unit and I were the main administrators of the program. When tips came in we would farm them out to patrol, narcotics, etc. As the popularity of the system grew, we realized there was a need for 24/7 coverage because we wanted to make sure people weren’t texting us tips and then waiting for a response to come during normal business hours.” – Major David Dalton, Clearwater, Florida Police

“I’d rather they engage with us anonymously than not at all. This is what tip411 does, and I’m a true believer in that approach.”

tip411 interviewed Major David Dalton of the Clearwater Police Department in Clearwater, Florida.

Q: Tell us about Clearwater and your department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A:
Clearwater is a City of about 110,000 residents that spans approximately 25 square miles on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the state’s most populous county, Pinellas. It is the third largest city in the Tampa Bay area and it is a unique city with three separate geographic districts; each district presents its own unique challenges. – The East District is a mostly suburban, residential area with significant shopping and commuter activity. Our West District encompasses our downtown core, a major regional hospital, and other business entities. Our Beach District comprises Clearwater Beach, which is a nationally and internationally known tourist destination, which has been ranked “Best Beach in the United States” several times, as well as the “best Place to Watch a Sunset” in the United States.

The Clearwater Police Department is a mid-size department of 238 sworn officers. As a full service law enforcement agency, we deal with many of the same challenges as much larger cities. We have the added challenge of being host to a significant tourist and Spring Break/Spring Training population visiting our City.  With this influx of visitors and non-residents, as well as people crossing jurisdictional lines frequently and not necessarily knowing it in this small, but populated county, we needed a way for citizens, residents, and business owners to contact us in a manner that is convenient, effective, and cost efficient.

Q: How is tip411 administered in your department department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A:
Initially we started with just tip functionality only. When we launched with tip411 in 2010 we simultaneously began a CompStat program, which was formulated through a centralized Crime Analysis Unit. So, at first, the Crime Analysis Unit and I were the main administrators of the program. When tips came in we would farm them out to patrol, narcotics, etc.

As the popularity of the system grew, we realized there was a need for 24/7 coverage because we wanted to make sure people weren’t texting us tips and then waiting for a response to come during normal business hours. We made a decision as an organization that we wanted give virtual real time feedback to any received tips. That’s when we gave additional responsibility to our Communications Center Supervisors to monitor the system after hours and respond to tips when needed, while the Crime Analysis Unit remains in charge of responding to tips during business hours and cataloging and assigning each received tip.

Our Crime Analysis Unit logs every tip we receive, which has helped us track and report the types of tips we receive, who they are assigned to, and the impact and success of tip411 to our Chief of Police.

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Q: How has the tip411 system aided your department?
A:
From our perspective, it’s a critical and essential tool. I can’t think of another mechanism that gets people to freely engage directly with our Department and give us information on a variety of crimes and problems in their community.

In the past, we may have gotten narcotics tips from residents who were inclined to contact us anyway, but we were missing out on those residents who thought they saw something suspicious or unusual, but didn’t really know who to contact. tip411 helps us with a citywide approach where we’re able to reach across populations, demographics, across crime types, and that’s a huge benefit. In this day and age, virtually everyone has a cellular phone or access to the internet, so it can reach a multitude of populations.

Frankly, I’m okay with people who want to engage with us anonymously – Whatever mechanism they feel comfortable with; you want to give them a tool that they will feel comfortable using. I’d rather they engage with us anonymously than not at all. This is what tip411 does, and I’m a true believer in that approach.

We started off with just tips, and then incorporated citizen alerts through the bundle package, so we were able to send out information vital to different geographic areas in the city and alert citizens about isolated incidents of crime or concerns specific to particular communities. We now have tip411 Pro and our own smartphone app that allows us to not only receive tips, but push out information specific to particular crimes, allows us to share crime mapping information, links to important agency information, as well as our social media accounts.

In 2016, our department received 435 unique tips through tip411, and I truly believe that all of the information we’re getting is intelligence that we probably never would have received if people didn’t have the ability to share it with us quickly, safely, and anonymously.

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Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A:
Many. One that comes to mind is when we had an individual wanted for armed robbery; we had been searching for him locally for quite a while. We got a tip from an individual who knew where he was and we were able to engage with them on tip411 and obtain additional information, which wasn’t included in the original tip. They were able to give us, down to the room number, where he was staying in a hotel in Louisiana. We gave that information to the US Marshals and they were able to apprehend him immediately. It also aided us in obtaining tactical information which was beneficial to our approach to the wanted person.

Another example occurred when we got information via text about a male at a certain location with a significant amount of marijuana. We got the tip, dispatched it quickly to some of narcotics oriented Patrol Officers, and they found nearly a pound of marijuana in the house.

Q: How do you use your department’s social media accounts with tip411 to help get the word out?
A:
We try to get tip411 information out to the public as much as we can to try to maximize its usage by residents and visitors to our area. We use it in virtually every instance in which we ask for the public’s assistance. Even when we use another social media platforms, like Twitter, to shares suspect images, videos, etc., we ask followers to submit information using tip411. It doesn’t matter to our agency if it is a routine retail theft case or a murder investigation, we include that as a resource to the public.

Q: What have you done to brand and promote the tip411 system in Clearwater?
A:
We try to feature it prominently on our website and we push it out as I said through Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. In every community alert that we send, we include our tip411 information. We put it on flyers, on crime alerts – just about anything we send to the public.

When we canvass neighborhoods and leave door hangers, our tip411 info is on them. We include it on our business cards, just about anywhere imaginable, so that tip411 is virtually synonymous – in the public’s mind – with the Clearwater Police Department.

Q: So, why tip411?
A: To me, one of the most significant aspects of tip411 is the “loop of communication” it creates, with the anonymous tipping and community alerts working together. Anyone can have what they describe as an “anonymous” tip service, but people are smart and they know if they have to send a tip through their email, that someone could trace it back to them one way or another.

That’s why, prior to tip411, we’ve had very limited success with other types of “anonymous” reporting services, because they know it could be tracked and that causes the public to be reticent to share information.  Our experience is that the public feels comfortable that they are truly anonymous with tip411 and that allows us to not only receive tips and information, but also have an opportunity to build trust and have additional communication with them.

Clinton PD rolls out alert system

The Clinton Police Department is extending another avenue of communication to the public, this time an alert system that allows citizens to get up-to-the-minute information on crime, traffic, weather and local events.

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The Tip411 Alert System is a component of the department’s existing Tip411 program designed to keep residents as informed as possible, while allowing police and those they serve to easily interact with each other. The department has been testing the system, which is similar to what other municipalities and colleges use.

Citizens choose to participate in the program and receive a text in the event of an emergency or other major events. The program is similar to the city’s ConnectCTY, but more direct and quicker than a phone call, city manager Shawn Purvis noted.

“This program allows citizens to subscribe to this alert, which they can receive either by text or email. It will alert people to such things as crime — say we have car break-ins in a neighborhood that we want to tell people about — or events, like a triathlon or N.C. 24 work, and we may have some traffic situations,” Police Chief Jay Tilley said.

Read the full story from the Sampson Independent.