tip411 interviewed Captain Mark O’Toole of the Lynn, Massachusetts Police Department.
Q: Tell us about Lynn and your department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A: The City of Lynn is the ninth largest city in Massachusetts with a population of approximately 93,000 but likely another 10,000 undocumented persons. We are 10.4 square miles and have been accumulating “city problems” over the years. We’re one city away from Boston but have a lot of the same issues they do, just on a smaller level. Our department has shrunk from almost 200 sworn down to about 165. Crime is going down in terms of the index numbers, but the calls for service have not decreased. We run the gambit on all crimes including robbery, car breaks, larceny, and housebreaks.
Q: Why did you decide to bring tip411 to Lynn?
A: Over the years we’ve seen a mindset among the population of not wanting to get involved and not wanting to cooperate. We found tip411 to be a conduit to get information while allowing people to remain anonymous. As technology gets better, more and more people in our community communicate via text. We wanted to tap into that rather than making people pick up a phone and call. The custom app tip411 built for us is making a huge difference in getting tips as well.
Q: Anything you would tell other agencies considering tip411?
A: We’re absolutely getting tips we wouldn’t have gotten without this system. It’s a great asset for our department. It gets us into the younger, tech savvy generation. Once they send us a tip, it’s out there, and they can’t take it back. The two-way communication is great because we can ask questions and many people respond back with more information so we can deploy our resources. Tip411 has been a huge help to our people. Unlike our anonymous phone tip line where we can’t ask that next question to get more information, we can and do with tip411. Almost everyone has a cell phone, they can take pictures and send things to you and they do, and it’s instant. If you can get them to tip you on some stuff, you can get them to tip you on bigger, more important stuff, too. tip411 has been a great investment for us in terms of gaining information and communicating with our public. If you’re not on it, you’re missing out on the opportunity for some really great information to help solve crimes.
Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A: On March 21stwe got a tip about a Level 3 Sex Offender that was living in our community near an elementary school. The subject was confirmed as unregistered in our city as required, more investigation was done and charges were filed for failure to register. This is the type of thing we want to know, and we were able to take action as a result of the tip. We have a wide variety of crimes, and when our PIO sends something out to the newspapers, on Twitter, and on Facebook, we always put the tip411 information on it. We include video stills when we can, and we get a fair amount of tips that lead us to who the person or persons are.
Q: Any success working with other jurisdictions through tip411?
A: We received a tip not long ago about a guy wanted on a sexual assault crime. The tipster told us he was living at an address in Pensacola, Florida, and we reached out to Pensacola PD and they were able to apprehend the guy.
Q: How is tip411 administered in your department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A: Tips come in to the patrol division and the commanding officer is responsible for monitoring them. There are several other people in the department, including myself, who have access to the tips and can monitor them on their phone in case it’s something that needs immediate action. For example, we’ve had complaints of children possibly being neglected and it comes through and patrol has gone right out and done checks on the addresses and acted swiftly when required.
Q: What have you done to brand and promote the tip411 system in Lynn to make your residents aware of it?
A: We promote tip411 through our website, with community groups, and include the tip411 information on anything we’re asking for the public’s assistance on. We have business cards with our tip411 information on them as well that we hand out to community members.We have some vice situations that I’m concerned could turn violent, so I’m working on a campaign to reach out to that at-risk community specifically with information about tip411 and how they can share information with us to protect their and others’ safety anonymously without having to identify themselves.
Q: Have you noticed an increase in the number of tips your department is receiving and cases you are solving since implementing tip411?
A: I just looked at the numbers and since we began partnering with tip411 in 2014, we’ve gotten over 3,000 tips. We love the feature of the two-way communication and people being allowed to include photo/video tips. The vast majority we receive are about narcotics activity, and I’ll frequently respond back to the tipster asking for more information. We do get information back that has resulted in very successful investigations. These types of successful investigations can be directly attributed to the tip411 service.
Q: What types of tips/situations have you seen tip411 be most useful for in Lynn?
A: A good thing about the texts is that they can’t take it back. Sometimes people reach out with information in the heat of the moment while they’re angry or upset, and we have that information in digital form. tip411 is definitely useful for narcotics and for vice crimes as well.