UPDATE: August 12, 2019
Crime Prevention Officer Caitlin Horne shared the following with us as ongoing proof of the success of Bismarck PD’s tip411 system:
“Below are two cases where tip411 played a HUGE ROLE as it appears more and more people are turning away from using our Facebook page as a place to say who the suspect(s) are as their names would be attached to it and they cannot stay anonymous on Facebook. I know we have many more success stories, but these are two where we got many tips in a fast timeframe and were able to solve the cases quickly.”
- KT Animal Supply called to report two individuals, a male and female, came into their store and stole two rabbits. The investigating officer was able to obtain video footage of the theft and the video was placed on our Facebook page. Within an hour of the video being uploaded, I started receiving tips on tip411 about both suspects. After the 9thtip, the officer was able to positively ID both suspects and they were both questioned and ultimately admitted to stealing the rabbits. The rabbits were safely returned to KT Animal Supply and the suspects were both trespassed from KT indefinitely.
- Ulta Beauty contacted Police after a female had left the store with over $400 worth of merchandise without paying for it. The investigating officer was able to get two still frame shots of the female and a male accomplice that was the getaway driver. The pictures were uploaded onto our Facebook page and Tips immediately started coming in on Tip411. The investigating officer was able to positively ID both suspects and formal complaints were issued through City Court. The investigating Officer applauded Tip411 for being the sole reason for the identification of these two suspects.
tip411 interviewed Officer Caitlin Horne of the Bismarck, North Dakota Police Department.
Q: Tell us about your community and the Bismarck Police Department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A: Bismarck’s population is over 72,000 people and, in 2017, Forbes Magazine ranked Bismarck as the 7thfastest-growing small city in the United States. The Bismarck Police Department currently has 129 sworn officers and continues to hire more when budget allows.Our Department is a full service agency that handles anything from an animal call to a homicide or aggravated assault.
Bismarck is constantly growing and expanding, and we have seen an influx of individuals coming to our area for employment opportunities. With that said, we have also seen an uptick in illegal activity which makes tip411 a great program to have in our department.
Q: How did you hear about tip411?
A: tip411 staff came to the Bismarck Police Department a couple of years ago and did a demonstration of what they could bring to our agency. There was a webinar put on and, after speaking to other agencies that have tip411, we decided it was ultimately the best program out there that would benefit not only our department but allow the community to be more involved with our every day activities.
Q: How is tip411 administered in your department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A: There are three ways a citizen can report a tip. One way is through the Bismarck PD app. The second is through our departments website, and the third way is that residents can access the program on our website.
As of now, I review the tips that come in during the daytime hours, Monday-Friday, and will distribute them to the investigator in charge of the case they relate to. All supervisors and patrol commanders have access to the program after hours and are able to see all the tips that come in.
With the program being so new to our community (we just recently launched in January 2019), we are still receiving many of what we consider “in progress” calls on tip411. With Patrol Commanders having access to this program during the night hours, they are able to constantly check the status of any tip and determine if it is a call they need to respond to during their working shift or if it is something that can wait until the day time hours.
Q: How has the tip411 system aided your department?
A: Just in the last two months, we believe tip411 has become a critical and essential tool to this Police Department. We take many reports from our citizens where they ask to remain anonymous and they have been deterred in the past from calling us because they don’t want to be involved in the report. tip411 gives our citizens the opportunity to report activity to us anonymously and help our department crack down on crime.
Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A: When we first launched tip411, we got multiple tips on the location and sightings of a juvenile runaway as well as numerous tips on the possible identities of suspects in a huge ring of felony cases.
Q: What have you done to promote your tip411 system to make sure residents know about it and use it?
A: One of our main goals is to have a positive interaction with our community. We are fortunate to have so many citizens in the Bismarck area support our department and have close to 27,000 people following our Facebook page.
Our Crime Analysist works very hard to keep our Facebook page updated throughout the year. She tries to keep the citizens up to date on current cases we are trying to solve and request that citizens help with identifying the suspects.
Before tip411, most of our tips came from our Facebook page. We would ask the community to help identify a suspect(s) and we would get a great number of people willing to help. The biggest problem we saw was our citizens were wanting to help us and give us information but they did not want to be associated with the case and be looked at as a “nark” and, unfortunately with Facebook, as much as you make your profile private, there is always ways around it.
Now with tip411, our community is able to interact with us in another, completely anonymous, way and it’s much more beneficial for them as well as our agency. I believe the longer tip411 is in use by our agency, the stronger the trust of the community will become and our bond with the community will continue to grow.
We have links on our Facebook page and our website along with a billboard right by our Police Department which shows people how they can use the tip411 app to send us tips. Our local news stations have also done stories on tip411 and have helped us reach out to our community on how to properly use the system.
Q: Any advice for other departments considering tip411?
A: There is no better time than right now to gain the trust and respect from your community. tip411 gives you that opportunity to build trust with community members who might be on the fence about law enforcement in general. In my eyes, giving the community another way to reach out to law enforcement can only make a stronger bond between the two.