Local residents who want to supply a tip to the McFarland Police Department have another option for doing so as the TIP411 system launched June 3.
McFarland Police Chief Craig Sherven said the program provides another avenue for people to provide information. During the last few years, the department has seen people moving away from traditional means of providing law enforcement with tips, such as phone calls, and preferring to use social media including Facebook.
“The problem with that is that we aren’t always monitoring Facebook, and sometimes miss out on this type of information. TIP411 alerts staff anytime new information is posted,” Sherven said.
The program is meant to be used as a quick, real time way of anonymously offering tip information to the police that does not need to have an immediate response from an officer, the chief said.
There are three ways for people to submit information to TIP411 – text message, a link on the McFarland Police Department’s website, and a smartphone app developed specifically for the local police. Sherven said police staff are alerted to the tip through a variety of ways.
To text a tip to the department using text, send the keyword MCFPD and the information to 847477. The app can be downloaded onto an Android or iPhone by searching McFarland PD in the app store. The direct link is www.tip411.com/tips/new?alert_group_id=21964.
Sherven stressed the system is not a means to report an incident in progress and needing immediate assistance or filing a police report.
The police chief said while TIP411 is intended for people to provide anonymous information to local law enforcement, people who have downloaded the app are also able to receive information pushed out from the McFarland Police Department.
“My hope is that the addition of this service will promote good communications and information sharing between us and the public,” Sherven said. “Like any other kind of service industry, we need to adapt to technology in order to effectively serve the public.”
tip411 interviewed Assistant Chief Jim Speyer of the Cheektowaga, New York Police Department. Here’s what he had to say about using tip411 in their community:
Q: Tell us about your community and the Cheektowaga Police Department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A: We are a first ring suburb of the City of Buffalo with a major shopping mall that serves Western NY, Southern Ontario, Canada, and Northern Pennsylvania. It’s the hub of a huge retail area we have and brings in lots of traffic and visitors to our area. The Buffalo-Niagara Airport is located in our jurisdiction as well
There are about 87,000 people in the town of Cheektowaga, and the demographics are changing from predominantly Polish and German neighborhoods to African American neighborhoods in the area that borders the City of Buffalo.
Our department has 129 sworn officers and we’re big on community policing and getting out and knowing the public. Our goal is always to try to open doors between us and the community we serve.
Q: How did you hear about tip411?
A: Our chief was attending an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference several years ago and heard about it there.
After that, he brought it to Cheektowaga in 2012 and we’ve been using it for the last 5 years.
Q: How is tip411 administered in your department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A: When we first implemented tip411 we had all the tips going to supervisors; sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. When they received a tip, each of them would designate if it needed to be forwarded to someone in particular for follow up.
We tried to stress to the community in the beginning that it was a tip line, not something that should be used for reporting in-progress crimes as it was not monitored 24/7.
However, the way society is today, it’s all about texting and we receive lots of calls for service through tip411 despite or efforts to communicate to people they should be calling 911.
Once we realized this was how people wanted to communicate, we set it up so that tips also go to our dispatch center. Supervisors still receive tips, but dispatches are also alerted to a tip so if it’s something that needs an immediate response they can dispatch units immediately.
Q: How has the tip411 system aided your department?
A: tip411 aided our department by helping us receive some valid information and tips on drugs. Lots of tips we receive are narcotics-related or about suspicious activity that gets forwarded to our narcotics officers who can initiate an investigation on an address.
People have always been able to call in to our department and say that want to be anonymous and we’ll adhere to that, but people don’t trust that it’s truly anonymous if they can. So the value of tip411 is that people trust this system to truly keep them anonymous and they use it for that.
There are times we go back and forth via text message with the tipster to get more information and sometimes they end up volunteering their identity to help us get in touch with them to get even more actionable intel on a case.
Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A: Just a few months ago, we received a tip that 2 people were in a car smoking crack. Our officers would never have known about it, but a tip came in to our dispatchers and they dispatched units. Officers found crack cocaine and heroin and arrested both individuals in the car.
This is typical of our system. We get tips on suspicious people, suspicious cars, etc. The reality, we as police believe something like this should be called in, but if people aren’t comfortable, then they use tip411 and its better than us not getting this information at all.
Q: What have you done to promote your tip411 system to make sure residents know about it and use it?
A: tip411 is promoted on our website and Facebook page. On Facebook we often post about individuals with outstanding warrants and ask people to share information with us via tip411.
When we first launched tip411, we rented billboards in the area and had a big display, which I think was great for getting in front of people and introducing the system. We also had our tip411 information stenciled on our police cruisers.
5 years later, we still hand out flyers with our tip information at community events and when I send out press releases to the media about certain incidents, I always include our tip411 information in there to ask residents to submit tips and help us fight crime.
Q: Any advice for other departments considering tip411?
A: I think it’s obvious that things change and even though it was not meant to be something for people to use to report crimes or incidents in progress, I feel it’s a necessity to have.
Around here, most departments have some form of an anonymous tip line, and to have this text option from tip411 is great. Everyone is texting; no one wants to talk on the phone anymore.
It’s a cultural thing. If people feel more comfortable texting – just like the case I mentioned where people were reported smoking crack – if people feel more comfortable texting than calling then that’s fine because we still got the information and got drugs off our streets.
The borough police department has launched an anonymous texting line for people to report crimes, authorities announced Wednesday.
People will now be able to text 847411 (tip411) and send anonymous tips about crime or suspicious activity, authorities said.
More than 1,200 communities in the United States use tip411, which allows police officers to receive real-time information, Ramsey police said.
“We believe the public is our greatest law enforcement resource,” Chief Brian Gurney said. “Tip411 allows a safe and secure way for community members to share important information with police without the fear of retribution.”
The service also “removes all identifying information before police see it and there is no way to identify the sender,” authorities said.
Gurney said that the service could also be used for people to report possible overdoses.
“Due to the opiate overdose epidemic, we are hoping that the Tip411 system will offer an alternative for people who may know of others that may need help with their opioid addiction,” he said. “We are also offering an alternative for young people, who do not want to formally contact police with regard to their friends that may be experiencing drug addiction and other issues.”
Gurney said anyone with questions can get more information by calling 201-327-2400.