tip411 interviewed Assistant Chief of Police Jeffrey R. Hayes of the Leander Police Department, who is a member of the coordination team in charge of the department’s tip411 system in Leander, Texas. For more information about how Leander is promoting their tip411 system, watch the Public Service Announcement they created to share with the media, public, and online.
Q: Tell us about Leander and your department.
A: Leander is one of the fastest growing cities in one of the fastest growing regions of the United States. We are located just north of Austin, Texas in what was once considered a rural farming community. Due to steady growth and a healthy economy, Leander is transitioning from its rural roots to a vibrant and self-sufficient city. At present, our population is approximately 38,000 and growing. We are projected to top 100,000 in the next ten years. To put it in perspective, Leander alone has 10% of all new housing starts in the Central Texas region.
Q: Why tip411?
A: A number of on-line organizations have rated Leander as one of the “Top Ten Safest” communities in Texas and one of the “Top 100 Safest” cities in America. We want to keep it that way. With growth comes the challenging task of staying intimately connected with our community in profound and meaningful ways. Communicating with our citizens in ways that foster strong relationships and staying connected in a way that make our department more focused and effective. In that regard, tip411was, well, it was a no brainer. Our department is acutely aware that we cannot be everywhere at once and we rely heavily on the community being our eyes and ears. tip411’s anonymous tip and alert features gives us a communication tool that gives a voice to those who might otherwise remain silent. An important aspect of good communication is simply listening, and the tip411 system allows us to do just that – listen. Not everyone feels comfortable talking with the police, no matter how good your relationship might be with your community. tip411 allows us to hear crime information and concerns we might not otherwise be able to hear.
Q: Why do you think branding and promoting tip411 is so important?
A: From the beginning, we understood the importance of the tip411 tool, but we also realized that our community must know it is available to them and how easy it is to use. We are a “smart phone society,” and part of a new generation that has multiple tools right at their fingertips on a device that is so powerful that it’s probably unfair to even call it a “phone.” The service and technology interface that we hold in our hands can be used for a myriad of functions, well beyond voice communication. We are an instantaneous information and communication society and there are growing expectations that services, including those offered by law enforcement, can be accessed via that powerful handheld device. tip411’s interface is as easy as an app, a text, or connecting over the internet. Members of our community must know it is available, that it is easy to use, and for those who’s anonymity is important – that it is just that – anonymous.
Q: What have you done to brand and promote the tip411 system in Leander?
A: To get the word out to our citizens, we knew that we must take the product and customize it to meet our department’s needs and the community’s expectations. We knew that we had to approach promotion, well the whole program in fact, in our own “style.” We practice a partnership based policing philosophy, where we strive to develop essential relationships with members of our community necessary to accomplish effective police work. With that, we knew that tip411 had a natural place in that partnership. Hence the lead line on all of our promotional materials is “Fighting Crime is a Partnership.” We paid very close attention to the strategies used in other communities who have successfully integrated tip411 into their toolbox, and we took those approaches and tinkered with them until they were unique, or at least had a “Leander” style that was easily identifiable. People that live in this community know that they enjoy a high quality of life and a low crime rate. They also know that they want to keep that way. We felt that it was valuable to show how using tip411 and the alert system could play a big part in keeping Leander “a great place to live, work, and play.”
Q: Anything you would tell other agencies considering tip411?
A: Let me address one challenge that we will wrestle with for the foreseeable future and that is the challenge that all law enforcement agencies face – money. Many law enforcement agencies have access to funding that we do not have now, but may have in the future. We can’t wait for the future to get the word out on tip411. For it to remain a valuable and effective tool, we must keep pushing its availability and value out to the public as often as possible. I will continue to watch how other agencies approach this same challenge. I also must confess that I have already “borrowed” and customized several ideas from other agencies that I thought would help us here in Leander. We will continue to seek alternative funding sources, donations, sponsors, and grants, to come up with the most cost effective way to keep tip411 in the public eye. We will make tip411 part of all department requests for assistance from the public and a prominent part of our crime prevention / community service programs, while definitely maximizing exposure through social media as often as possible.
Q: Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you would like to tell other agencies?
A: To paraphrase Sir Robert Peel, “we are the public, and the public are the police.” We are paid to do that which is incumbent upon every citizen in the interest of their community’s welfare and existence. The tip411 system is an interface that allows the Leander public to participate in policing their community. They can contribute to the partnership necessary for Leander to remain a great place to live. Those that have a true concern for their community are hungry to help, and they want to help us keep our crime rate low and quality of life high. Before we had our “hard launch,” we started placing the tip411 logos and icons on our Facebook page and webpage. With no fanfare or promotion, we began getting a few neighborhood concern tips. That happened with little or no effort on our part. Just think how powerful the tip411 system will be when we begin to promote it and make it an integral part of the way we do business in Leander.