tip411 interviewed Britnee White of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation Drug Enforcement in North Dakota.
Q: How has the tip411 system aided your agency?
A: If it wasn’t for tip411, many of the tips we’ve received would not have come to us. People on the reservation not want to be a narc, but they do want to be able to get information to the right people in law enforcement. We have a 1-800 phone line, we tell people they can call and be anonymous, but they don’t trust it like they do tip411.We can communicate with tipsters via text and through custom branded apps made just for our community.
Q: Any advice for other agencies considering tip411?
A: I would strongly suggest other agencies look into getting this for their department, their reservation, whatever. From our standpoint it’s opened our eyes to the power of technology in community engagement. People are more likely to send in a text than walk in or call us with information. Because of that it’s made us more successful in being able to get one more piece of the puzzle that helps us finish a case. I’m proud of our tip411 program and that they noticed us and the work we’re doing with it at MHA Nation.
Q: Tell us about your community and your agency (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A: Our agency is fairly new and the first of its kind. We’re tribally funded, and there are 6 communities on the reservation of approximately 1,000 acres under our jurisdiction. We started MHA Drug Enforcement started in 2015, and have a mixture of patrol agents with K-9s that do interdiction on the reservation and our special agents that do case management. We have about 16,000 enrolled members on our reservation but have a lot of non-natives that live on the reservation as well. A total of 6 counties intersect with the reservation.
Q: How did you hear about tip411?
A: tip411 was purchased for us a few years ago through a grant from Dr. Monica Mayer, our North Segment Representative, and, since we were a fairly new agency focused specifically on drugs, it was decided our agency would be the best fit to utilize the program.
Q: How is tip411 administered in your department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A: As the office manager/IT person/support person, I am the main administrator of tip411 who handles tips that come in. One of my responsibilities is to transfer tips within the agency to the best agent to follow up on it. When tips come in they are received by the supervisors and directors so they can interact with them as well. If I know there’s a current case, something a tip is related to, I’ll assign it to the specific agent working on that case. If a tip comes it at 1am on a Saturday, I’m monitoring it. We actually had a tip that came in at 3am and when the tip came in I got a text alert that the tipster was sending information and pictures through tip411. This was real-time information that was coming in about drugs being transported through the reservation.I transferred it to one of our agents and they were able to go out and make a successful arrest on a warrant that was issued for the driver of the vehicle.
Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A: With tip411, we’ve had tips come in that have contributed to several indictments. In one case we had 20 tips that came in about one person that contributed to their indictment as well.
Q: What have you done to brand and promote the tip411 system in your community to make your residents aware of it?
A: I try to reinforce the anonymity of tip411 on all of our advertisements for it.We have an information screen that’s seen throughout the reservation and we put the tip411 information on there, we put flyers out to everyone through our email lists, ask people to post it in their community centers, we have it on our Facebook page, it’s on the MHA Nation website, we’ve made business cards, and we’ve been sharing this information at community meetings. We also go out and do educational presentations for schools, staff, our public safety services, and when we do that I ask people, “does everyone have a cell phone?” and then I tell them to pull it out and I walk them through downloading the app and how to use it. Once I do that, we always see a spike in the number of tips we receive.
Q: Have you noticed an increase in the number of tips your agency is receiving and cases you are solving since implementing tip411?
A: Our community members are using it as a vehicle to be heard – it’s not always just drug tips – we’ve gotten tips about child protective situations, tips about people having warrants, etc. With the upgrade of being able to pass on information to another department I’ve started utilizing it to pass tips along to the appropriate agencies outside of MHA Nation to follow up on. They really appreciate it because they know the information they’re getting from us is good and actionable as we’ve always been a reliable partner to our neighboring agencies.
Q: What types of tips/situations have you seen tip411 be most useful for in your community?
A: When we first started, we were seeing issues related to meth, but the goal has been to try to eradicate any drug dealings that are being done on the reservation. What we’re finding now is a wide range of pill use, opioids, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and meth again. Recently its gotten much more serious – we’ve had 4 fatal overdoses in the last month related to fentanyl as well as 2 overdoses that were able to be brought back to consciousness.