Barrera announces new ‘tip411’ smartphone app for anonymous messages to sheriff’s office

The Highland County Sheriff’s Office now allows the public to share important public safety information anonymously with law enforcement by sending them a secure text message about crimes or suspicious activity in Highland County via a free smartphone app.

The Highland County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that it is launching “tip411,” an internet-based tool from Citizen Observer that enables the public to text message an anonymous tip to law enforcement and lets the officers respond back, creating an anonymous two-way conversation. The app can be downloaded for free via the Google Play store and iTunes App Store. Enter Highland County Sheriff in the search bar.

In addition, anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to the Highland County Sheriff’s office by texting HCSHERIFF and their message/tip to 847411 (tip411). Anonymous web tips can be submitted right from the sheriff’s office website at http://www.highlandcoso.com.

The Text Tips App and tip411 anonymous text-a-tip system are 100 percent anonymous, as the technology removes all identifying information before law enforcement officers see the tips and there is no way to identify the sender.

“We believe the public is our greatest law enforcement resource,” said sheriff Donnie Barrera, adding that “tip411 allows a safe and secure way for community members to share important information with law enforcement without the fear of retribution.”

Read more from The Times-Gazette

“Everyone is texting; no one wants to talk on the phone anymore.”

tip411 interviewed Assistant Chief Jim Speyer of the Cheektowaga, New York Police Department.  Here’s what he had to say about using tip411 in their community:

Q: Tell us about your community and the Cheektowaga Police Department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A:
We are a first ring suburb of the City of Buffalo with a major shopping mall that serves Western NY, Southern Ontario, Canada, and Northern Pennsylvania. It’s the hub of a huge retail area we have and brings in lots of traffic and visitors to our area. The Buffalo-Niagara Airport is located in our jurisdiction as well

There are about 87,000 people in the town of Cheektowaga, and the demographics are changing from predominantly Polish and German neighborhoods to African American neighborhoods in the area that borders the City of Buffalo.

Our department has 129 sworn officers and we’re big on community policing and getting out and knowing the public. Our goal is always to try to open doors between us and the community we serve.

Q: How do you hear about tip411?
A:
Our chief was attending an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference several years ago and heard about it there.

After that, he brought it to Cheektowaga in 2012 and we’ve been using it for the last 5 years.

Q: How is tip411 administered in your department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A:
When we first implemented tip411 we had all the tips going to supervisors; sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. When they received a tip, each of them would designate if it needed to be forwarded to someone in particular for follow up.

We tried to stress to the community in the beginning that it was a tip line, not something that should be used for reporting in-progress crimes as it was not monitored 24/7.

However, the way society is today, it’s all about texting and we receive lots of calls for service through tip411 despite or efforts to communicate to people they should be calling 911.

Once we realized this was how people wanted to communicate, we set it up so that tips also go to our dispatch center. Supervisors still receive tips, but dispatches are also alerted to a tip so if it’s something that needs an immediate response they can dispatch units immediately.

Q: How has the tip411 system aided your department?
A:
tip411 aided our department by helping us receive some valid information and tips on drugs. Lots of tips we receive are narcotics-related or about suspicious activity that gets forwarded to our narcotics officers who can initiate an investigation on an address.

People have always been able to call in to our department and say that want to be anonymous and we’ll adhere to that, but people don’t trust that it’s truly anonymous if they can. So the value of tip411 is that people trust this system to truly keep them anonymous and they use it for that.

There are times we go back and forth via text message with the tipster to get more information and sometimes they end up volunteering their identity to help us get in touch with them to get even more actionable intel on a case.

Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A:
Just a few months ago, we received a tip that 2 people were in a car smoking crack. Our officers would never have known about it, but a tip came in to our dispatchers and they dispatched units. Officers found crack cocaine and heroin and arrested both individuals in the car.

This is typical of our system. We get tips on suspicious people, suspicious cars, etc. The reality, we as police believe something like this should be called in, but if people aren’t comfortable, then they use tip411 and its better than us not getting this information at all.

Q: What have you done to promote your tip411 system to make sure residents know about it and use it?
A:
tip411 is promoted on our website and Facebook page. On Facebook we often post about individuals with outstanding warrants and ask people to share information with us via tip411.

When we first launched tip411, we rented billboards in the area and had a big display, which I think was great for getting in front of people and introducing the system. We also had our tip411 information stenciled on our police cruisers.

5 years later, we still hand out flyers with our tip information at community events and when I send out press releases to the media about certain incidents, I always include our tip411 information in there to ask residents to submit tips and help us fight crime.

Image_CheektowagaTip411_billboard

Q: Any advice for other departments considering tip411?
A:
I think it’s obvious that things change and even though it was not meant to be something for people to use to report crimes or incidents in progress, I feel it’s a necessity to have.

Around here, most departments have some form of an anonymous tip line, and to have this text option from tip411 is great. Everyone is texting; no one wants to talk on the phone anymore.

It’s a cultural thing. If people feel more comfortable texting – just like the case I mentioned where people were reported smoking crack – if people feel more comfortable texting than calling then that’s fine because we still got the information and got drugs off our streets.

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 III

tip411 interviewed Chief Jim Howarth of the Delhi Township Police Department in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the third and final part of our conversation.

PART III

Q: What have you done to promote your tip411 system to make sure residents know about it and use it?
A:
We make sure our tip411 information is always posted on all of our social media sites, with links to sign up for alerts and submit tips.

In the beginning, we had business cards made up with tip411 information and officers would hand those out. Officers had them in their car and when they had an interaction with a resident, they’d hand them a card and introduce them to the tip411 program, tell them its free to use to send tips and to sign up for alerts. We still have cards but it was imperative in the beginning.

We really saw a jump with residents buying in to our tip411 efforts when local media starting putting the information on the news. That was as easy as sending out a press release and what’s nice now is they all buy-in to signing up for tip411 and, if they don’t, they know it’s pushed out through Facebook so local reporters are getting our alerts in real-time. They’ll call me right away saying they want to do a story, or sometimes now they won’t even contact me and I’ll see the alert on the news with the surveillance photos we put out. It’s great and helps us reach more residents.

Q: Any advice for other departments considering tip411?
A:
Don’t hesitate. My biggest regret is waiting two years before I pulled the trigger to purchase tip411. I felt comfortable coming on board and the rest has been icing on the cake. Now I realize it is what I thought it was.

Any time it can help another agency and talk to them about tip411, I do. It’s not like I’m trying to sell it to them, but when I find a good product for a reasonable amount that helps me do my job better, I like to share that.

My advice is for other departments just to take a look at tip411 because once they do, the product sells itself.

 

Click here to read Part I and here for Part II of our conversation with Chief Howarth.

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:

Police department rolls out new tip alert system

The police department and Mayor Stephen Zanni are launching a new tip alert system to help improve public safety in the city.

The system, tip411, is an interactive way to keep the community connected and informed through email, text message and online public safety alerts. It will also allow the public to report crimes and other suspicious activity directly to police by sending anonymous text messages or submitting tips online or through the Methuen Police Department app.

“In a society where technology and media are so prominent in all aspects of our lives, we believe this new app will only help to increase our connection with our community members,” Chief Joseph Solomon said. “We have worked hard to notify, educate and respond to our citizens in all regards, and tip411 is another resource that helps facilitate this process.”

To use the system, residents can register to receive alerts from the police department via email or text message by signing up online. Or, they can download the Methuen Police Department app. It is through this app, developed by tip411, that residents can share anonymous tips with police and officers and respond back.

Read the full story from the Eagle Tribune