The word on the street is that anonymous tips can play a critical role in police solving crimes. Often the anonymous tips actually alert the police to the existence of crimes in the first place. But how do the cops get those tips? The days of paid informants like Huggy Bear meeting Starsky & Hutch in the back of dark alleys is over, and modern technology is shepherding in a whole new way to narc on your neighbors. The Associated Press (AP) recently reported on how police departments are now starting to rely on text messaging for tips.
"Since the beginning of the year, cities such as Tampa, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Detroit have started their own text-based tip systems, according to Texas-based Anderson Software, a leading providers of the technology. Many cities are adding the text messages to a system that already accepted anonymous tips through a Web site."
In addition to these cities' police departments' recent foray into text-based, anonymous tips, the AP reports that now over "100 communities have taken similar steps or plan to do so." While the AP story gives several examples of how police departments are seeing plenty of tips come in via text messaging, the number of success stories of arrests or convictions from such tips is not presented, other than two specific examples from Boston: a murder suspect and a "notorious suspect in a drug case" arrested. It is unclear if anonymous-based text-messaged tips are any more or less successful than tips provided via other means. As a point of reference, if the information found on a couple of local Crime Stoppers websites is representative of other communities, then between 7 percent and 12 percent of phone tips lead to arrests.
Similar to Crime Stoppers phone-tip programs, anonymous text tipsters are eligible for cash rewards if the arrests lead to convictions. In order to protect the identity of the person texting the tip, the cell phone number from which the tip is sent is encrypted before the police ever see the message.
It would seem that a number of police departments are starting to embrace 21st Century technology, and some are even using Facebook to fight crime. It's only a matter of time before Twitter becomes the next weapon in their arsenal... Heck, it helped a student get out of jail; why can't it help put criminals in jail?