Terry Halsch, President and CEO, tip411/Citizen Observer
Law enforcement agencies are finding great success utilizing web-based anonymous tip software tools. These tools allow the public to submit anonymous tips to law enforcement agencies, most often via customized agency mobile apps and text messages. The agency can then use the web-based tool to respond to the tipster, creating an anonymous, two-way conversation with the tipster. There are several characteristics of these tools that helps agency’s find success.
One key feature of these tools is that the anonymity of the tipster is protected. This provides community members the confidence that they can share vital information without sacrificing their identity.
The Wilmington, North Carolina, Police Department is an agency that recognizes the importance of tipster anonymity. Brandon Shope, communications specialist with the Wilmington Police Department said, “We do not see who sends us the tips; all of that information is scrubbed completely. Our STING Center is able to communicate with the tipster directly in a 100% anonymous way.”
Shope says many community members have downloaded the mobile app that is a component of their anonymous tip tool, and tips received via the tool have assisted the police department with solving crimes through the years, such as larcenies, hit-and-runs, and homicides.
“Our officers work daily to keep our community safe. As technology evolves, so do we,” Shope said. “We wanted to provide citizens with an alternative method to sending in tips anonymously.”
The San Joaquin County, California, Sheriff’s Office also uses an anonymous tip tool. According to Public Information Office Jennifer Kline, “Everything is 100% anonymous. You can send anonymous tips to the police about crimes, drugs, bullying, suspicious activity and more. People may sometimes be afraid to call the police with information, but the system removes your name, your phone number, your address. It just gives us a tip, and that access to talk to you back and forth. We embrace new technology because it helps our detectives, it helps our officers, and it helps the community.”
Another key component of anonymous tip tools is the ability to have a two-way conversation with the tipster utilizing the tool.
According to Peoria, Illinois, Police Chief Eric Echevarria, “It opens up that line of communication like never before, when you could only get a tip or get some information from a third party who would then send it to the police. This allows us to communicate back and forth anonymously.”
Peoria’s police department received 171 tips in the last four months through their system and were able to both make arrests and move forward with investigations through these anonymous tipsters.
Anonymous tip tools that utilize admin mobile apps allow agency admin users to view incoming tips and respond to tipsters using their mobile devices.
By providing member of the public with an anonymous tool to submit tips, a sense of trust is developed between community members and the agency.
Crestwood, Missouri, Chief Jonathan Williams said, “tip411 is going to be a better way for us to connect with the community, keep people informed and let them keep us informed. We are a community outreach-based organization and this is one more tool to better connect to the community. It’s exactly what we have been looking for.”
Crestwood Police Officer Dion Olson added, “We are such a community-oriented department. Our community comes first every day and when we put this uniform on, we pledge to do our best for Crestwood and this app is going to be able to continue that spirit of doing our best for the community.”
Some anonymous tip tools include a mobile app, customized for the agency, that makes it convenient for community members to submit a tip.
According to East Providence, Rhode Island, Police Chief Christopher Francesconi,
“Our goal is to make it easy for the people of East Providence to communicate with our department, and, by working together, continue to make East Providence an exceptional place to live, work and visit. With our new mobile app, we have added another way for the community to access our department so that we may respond to any concerns and continue to keep our community safe.”
Tips Lead to Information to Close Cases
Along with improved communication with the public, agencies are seeking information to help reduce crime. Anonymous tip tools help agencies gather information that assist them in solving cases or prevent criminal acts.
For example, anonymous tips helped the Asheville, North Carolina. Police make the largest single fentanyl seizure in their county’s history. Asheville Police Chief David Zack says,
“After receiving information about a suspect’s involvement in drug sales in Asheville, including tips from our mobile app, our officers were able to use that information to make the arrest. This is a significant drug arrest which removes a large amount of this deadly drug from our streets, much in thanks to the support we receive from the community sharing your tips.”
In Parker County, Texas, tips submitted using the Parker County Sheriff mobile app led to the arrest of a suspect wanted for multiple vehicle burglaries. According to Sheriff Russ Authier, “Our Criminal Investigations Division investigators obtained the warrants for his arrest once the press release and photos were posted and tipsters contacted us with his possible identity. We received dozens of anonymous tips. Our CID investigators located and arrested the male suspect within hours. The tips submitted also helped our investigators identify and locate the female suspect. We would like to thank the public for their assistance in this case.”
Value of Anonymous Tip Solutions to Schools
According to the Safe School Initiative report by the U.S. Secret Service, prior to most school attacks, other people knew about the attacker’s idea or plan to attack. In over three-quarters of the incidents, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the school attack. In nearly two-thirds of the incidents, more than one person had information about the attack before it occurred.
By providing a safe space such as an anonymous tip system in school environments students, parents, faculty, or staff who may have preexisting knowledge about future incidents like mass casualty events, fights, contraband sales, or other concerns can communicate directly with school personnel and law enforcement to prevent these incidents from occurring.
Whether it is members of the public communicating with law enforcement or students communicating with school administration, providing a safe space to for community members to get involved to do the right thing, often before something very bad is going to happen, is essential to modern policing. Users of these solutions, including tip411, see higher levels of trust within the communities they serve and more open communication, as well as enjoying a capability to build and maintain meaningful relationships with those they serve daily.
tip411 is a web-based tool set for law enforcement that features custom, agency branded iPhone and Android mobile apps; 2-way anonymous text tips; and community alerts via text, email, and social media integration. tip411 helps agencies connect with their community in real time, engage citizens by allowing them to submit vital information to law enforcement across multiple channels, and build and maintain meaningful relationships with those whom they serve.