Weatherford Democrat

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February 15, 2013

A smarter way to fight crime using smartphones

Phone app lets citizens communicate with, leave tips for officers to act on

By CHRISTIN COYNE

Weatherford police are hoping to engage younger residents in efforts to battle crime with a new program that allows those with cell phones to text tips to police.

Launched locally this week, the Internet-based tip411 tool allows the public to anonymously exchange texts with a Weatherford police officer, according to Sgt. Matt Vinson.

Users can text information to police by sending the word wpdtips followed by the message to 847411, or tip411. Police officers can then respond to the person sending the text through the third-party system that keeps users anonymous. 

“When someone feels afraid to come forward or simply feels like they don’t want to get involved, this can be a great way to pass information on without fear of retribution,” Police Chief Mike Manning said.  “We’re proud to be part of a national program that benefits over 1000 communities around the country.  This new capability will help our citizens play an active role in keeping neighborhoods safer, it will engage a younger demographic in the process, and it will save our agency time and resources.”

Powered by CitizenObserver, a St. Paul, Minn., company, the program creates a two-way anonymous “chat” and removes all identifying information before delivering the texts to police.

It’s not intended for users reporting emergencies or a crime in progress because it may be a few minutes before the officer sees the text, according to Vinson.

Instead, the program is geared toward providing a forum for tips,  such as notifying police of a neighbor believed to be selling drugs or to report suspected child abuse.

Hundreds of communities across the U.S. are currently using the program, including area cities such as Coppell, Plano and Farmers Branch, according to Vinson.

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