In a day when technology reigns, the Inver Grove Heights Police Department decided to turn to the devices that are almost always attached to people’s hands to help fight crime.
The department announced via its Facebook page Nov. 7 it will utilize Tip411, a program that allows folks to submit tips the way many communicate most — via text message.
Chief Paul Schnell said the program has been around for a number of years and is used by agencies in Minnesota and across the country.
“We know simply that we have a texting culture and people want to provide information, but one of the things that keeps some people from reporting or calling or providing information is the fact that they’re concerned about their anonymity,” he said.
Tip411 allows people to send texts that get filtered through an automated system. Schnell said the department doesn’t know who sent the tip — it can be text or a picture — and the system allows the department to communicate back to the tipster.
The day the post was made about the new feature, Schnell said the department received a useful tip through it. Someone let police know about a dump truck that was stolen from a business on Concord Street. The truck had also pulled down wires.
The department was able to communicate back with the tipster and verify the information. The tipster, however, never had to identify themself.
Tip411 is a product of St. Paul-based Citizen Observer. Schnell said he has used the system in other communities like Hastings and Maplewood, where it helped the department identify a homicide suspect and solve the case.
Use in the schools
Schnell said ISD 199 is also launching the Tip411 program, with the aim of improving school safety at the middle and high schools.
Superintendent Dave Bernhardson said the program was brought to the school’s attention by Schnell.
“Once we had that dialogue, we felt it was a very, very good opportunity for both of us to partner to get great information and obtain information from our kids, when needed,” said Bernhardson.
He said the district hopes students use the new tool as a safe space to communicate with officials about things that are concerning them.
“There seems, I guess we’ll find out, an unlimited amount of things that they can communicate, because in the end we want to make sure everything is as safe as possible for our kids,” Bernhardson said.
Schnell said Tip411 could be a mechanism for someone to report if they know of another student bringing a weapon to school. It could also be used for other things like reporting bullying or a student worried about another student talking about suicide.
“Ultimately, what it does is help create a safer school environment by getting good information to administrators to vet and sort through, and ultimately identify solutions,” Schnell said.
Bernhardson added any information gleaned over Tip411 would need to be confirmed, so he sees it as no different than other means of communication.