Crime Stoppers programs add text, social media options

Groups trying to keep up with the people by adding new channels for crime tips

Crime Stoppers programs around the country are trying to keep up with an increasingly mobile, short-message mad populace by adding texting and other social media channels to their crime-tip operations.

Orangeburg, S.C., has a texting capability that allows people to submit tips via its website and has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, writes Richard Walker in the Times and Democrat in Orangeburg.

The New York City Police Department took the same text and Web approach in 2008, but wasn’t getting a lot of response, averaging only 25 texts and 900 Web tips a month, writes Wil Cruz in the New York Daily News. So in August, the NYPD launched a campaign to raise awareness about how people could submit tips.

The trend is accelerating around the county. Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, Fla., this year took up residence on Twitter. Examples of other programs around the country include Oklahoma City, San Diego and Honolulu. Canada also has gotten in on the act.

Crime Stoppers, which today is an international organization with thousands of local chapters, started in the 1970s in Albuquerque, N.M. It was originally designed to solicit tips via phone, as a way of helping police solve or prevent crimes. The key to making it work was anonymity, something that people might worry about with text or Twitter messages.

The text systems give users a unique identification number, along with a number corresponding to their tip, and Web systems also operate anonymously. San Diego’s organization, which encrypts text messages, also advises tipsters to delete tips from their outbox.

"Everything is totally anonymous," including Crime Stoppers’ operators, the director of the Crime Stoppers organization that includes Orangeburg, S.C, told the Times and Democrat. "Everything on the Web, everything in text, phone calls — that is totally anonymous."


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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