This is an article from The Sanford Herald dated March 19th, 2009 by Gordon Anderson.
SPD takes techno-step with text-tip system
You’ve read a lot lately about how businesses are taking advantage of social networking sights and how elected officials are using status sites like Twitter to keep their “followers” informed.
So it only makes sense that we should expect law enforcement to use the technology out their to their advantage. That’s why we commend the Sanford Police Department for announcing to the Sanford City Council this week that it is launching a program that will allow citizens to send anonymous text messages about crimes or tips in their communities.
Sanford Police will begin participating in the tip411 program, which will allow police to respond to texts and create a “chat” with the tipster without revealing that person’s identity. It’s a program being used by similarly sized police departments in Massachusetts, Indiana and Tennessee.
No price for the system was given at Monday’s meeting, but one published report lists Tennessee’s system costing $1,500 to begin.
Text messaging is nothing new, of course, but long gone are the days when picking up the phone was the only way to contact somebody when face-to-face wasn’t an option. We’re becoming a society that uses “tweets” and “status updates” as the primary way to communicate with our friends, but that lack of contact that anonymity is actually an important tool when it comes to having the public provide information on crimes.
Often, those with information are intimidated to make that phone call or show up at the police station. This provides another means of communication with our law enforcement officials, and since just about all of us own cell phones with texting capabilities, Sanford PD just became much more accessible.
It’s a nice step, and we’re glad to see it happening. However, we also think much more can be done.
Currently, neither the Sanford Police Department nor the Lee County Sheriff’s Office oversee a functionable Web site. Sanford PD’s site merely consists of contact information and its Code of Ethics,” while the sheriff’s site wasn’t even accessible Wednesday nor were any other parts of Lee County Government’s Web site. Sheriff Tracy Carter does publish a regularly updated blog, but we feel everybody would benefit from a more comprehensive departmental Web site … that includes both agencies.
We hope to learn more about SPD’s text system in the coming days.
End of Article.
Police: Text tip line will get more involved
By GORDON ANDERSON email@example.com March 21,2009
SANFORD Sanford police have a new weapon in their fight against crime the cell phone text message.
Through technology provided by a company called Citizen Observer, a program is in place at the department which allows citizens to send anonymous tips through text messages. Doing so opens a “chat” between the cell phone user and an officer at the police department.
Maj. Kevin Gray said the program is aimed at getting people to provide police with tips about crime while embracing new technology.
“Our old crime line has dwindled down so much that we don’t get very many tips that way at all,” he said. “So this is a new approach for us. You’ve got kids who are 11 or 12 years old who know how to text.”
The messages are first sent to CitizenObserver’s headquarters in Minneapolis, where their source is encrypted by a computer before being relayed to a computer at the Sanford Police Department.
Sanford City Manager Hal Hegwer said he got the idea at an economic development conference during which he saw a video displaying how widespread cell phone usage is.
“I was just thinking about how (text message technology) could help the city, how it would blend into the city’s operations in the future,” he said.
The program costs $1,000 annually, Hegwer said.
Gray said the department is pushing the program in places where young people are.
“We’re putting out posters and business cards with information on how to text us at the high schools, the colleges, some bars,” he said. “As always, we want to stress that even the smallest bit of information could be important to us. We never know if it’s the one thing we need to break a case.”
Citizens interested in texting information to the Sanford Police Department should enter “919SPD” followed by a message about their tip and send it to 847411 (Tip411).
End of Article
Thanks to City Manager Hal Hegwer for bringing this idea to our Police Department and our city. for more information please call Hal Hegwer at 775-8201