tip411 interviewed Captain Lee Ellis of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources about his agency’s use of tip411.
Q: Tell us about your agency (how many sworn, how many areas/miles are under your jurisdiction, etc.) and the agency’s role in the state.
A:The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division currently has 262 sworn officers. SCDNR Law Enforcement has statewide enforcement authority with the primary responsibility of enforcement of the state’s criminal codes related to Hunting, Boating, Recreational and Commercial Fishing, Homeland Security, and Search & Rescue response. SC DNR is responsible for patrolling 30,111 square miles of land, 460,000 acres of lakes, 8,000 miles of rivers, and 3,000 miles of coastal waters.
Q: How did you hear about tip411?
A:Upon taking over our “Operation Game Thief“ anti-poaching program, I determined that SCDNR needed to increase the avenues through which anonymous reporting of violations was possible. At the time we had a toll-free phone line as the only means of reporting violations. Through talking with other states and conducting some internet research, it was determined we wanted to be able to receive tips not only through our website, but with the huge usage of smartphones we felt an anonymous tip phone app would also need to be a requirement. After talking with several vendors it was determined that tip411 was a perfect fit for our needs.
Q: How is tip411 administered in your agency (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A:All tips come into our 24 hour radio dispatch facility. Once a tip is received, the dispatcher corresponds with the tipster and, once the area where the violation is occurring is determined, an officer assigned to that area of responsibility is given the tip for follow-up.
Q: How has the tip411 system aided your agency?
A:Through the use of tip411, which we named SCDNR Tips, we have received over 1,100 tips since going live in July of 2016. During this time, officers have not only received information regarding violations through the tip411 program, but they have received photographs and videos through the tip app as well. This not only aids in prosecution, but in many cases the violators have admitted to their actions once confronted with the photographic or video evidence.
Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A:We have made numerous arrests from tips submitted through tip411 for violations such as night hunting, out of season hunting, hunting over bait, and taking over the limit. The fact that our officers have a direct line to contact the tip submitter without breaking the anonymous nature of the system allows for immediate updates while investigating tips. SCDNR has received numerous tips on crimes other than natural resource violations over the past 2 years, and we pass this information on to the appropriate agency or collaborate during the investigation to ensure they receive the information they need without compromising our tipsters’ personal information.
Q: What have you done to promote your tip411 system to make sure residents know about it and use it?
A:We have issued news releases on our program and have used media advertising to ensure the message gets out to residents across the state.
Q: Many of our customers are local police departments. Being a state agency, what advice would you give to other agencies like yours who may be considering tip411 or an anonymous tip solution?
A:At first, SCDNR began using these tip submission opportunities as a test to see if these venues were successful. As tip411 is a low cost subscription-based service, it allowed our agency to avoid purchasing software and the costs associated with maintaining expensive software programs. In just a short time it has proven it was a worthy investment, and we recently renewed our subscription for another 2 years.
Q: Anything else that’s important to note?
A:The service provided by tip411 has been great! Their technical help working with our IT department has allowed for SCDNR to go from a single toll-free phone tip line to submission venues using our agency website, agency Facebook page, agency smartphone app, and to link with private outdoor related apps to provide a direct link to our tip submission venues even when not using an SCDNR app.