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“I’d rather they engage with us anonymously than not at all. This is what tip411 does, and I’m a true believer in that approach.”

tip411 interviewed Major David Dalton of the Clearwater Police Department in Clearwater, Florida.

Q: Tell us about Clearwater and your department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A:
Clearwater is a City of about 110,000 residents that spans approximately 25 square miles on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the state’s most populous county, Pinellas. It is the third largest city in the Tampa Bay area and it is a unique city with three separate geographic districts; each district presents its own unique challenges. – The East District is a mostly suburban, residential area with significant shopping and commuter activity. Our West District encompasses our downtown core, a major regional hospital, and other business entities. Our Beach District comprises Clearwater Beach, which is a nationally and internationally known tourist destination, which has been ranked “Best Beach in the United States” several times, as well as the “best Place to Watch a Sunset” in the United States.

The Clearwater Police Department is a mid-size department of 238 sworn officers. As a full service law enforcement agency, we deal with many of the same challenges as much larger cities. We have the added challenge of being host to a significant tourist and Spring Break/Spring Training population visiting our City.  With this influx of visitors and non-residents, as well as people crossing jurisdictional lines frequently and not necessarily knowing it in this small, but populated county, we needed a way for citizens, residents, and business owners to contact us in a manner that is convenient, effective, and cost efficient.

Q: How is tip411 administered in your department department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A:
Initially we started with just tip functionality only. When we launched with tip411 in 2010 we simultaneously began a CompStat program, which was formulated through a centralized Crime Analysis Unit. So, at first, the Crime Analysis Unit and I were the main administrators of the program. When tips came in we would farm them out to patrol, narcotics, etc.

As the popularity of the system grew, we realized there was a need for 24/7 coverage because we wanted to make sure people weren’t texting us tips and then waiting for a response to come during normal business hours. We made a decision as an organization that we wanted give virtual real time feedback to any received tips. That’s when we gave additional responsibility to our Communications Center Supervisors to monitor the system after hours and respond to tips when needed, while the Crime Analysis Unit remains in charge of responding to tips during business hours and cataloging and assigning each received tip.

Our Crime Analysis Unit logs every tip we receive, which has helped us track and report the types of tips we receive, who they are assigned to, and the impact and success of tip411 to our Chief of Police.

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Q: How has the tip411 system aided your department?
A:
From our perspective, it’s a critical and essential tool. I can’t think of another mechanism that gets people to freely engage directly with our Department and give us information on a variety of crimes and problems in their community.

In the past, we may have gotten narcotics tips from residents who were inclined to contact us anyway, but we were missing out on those residents who thought they saw something suspicious or unusual, but didn’t really know who to contact. tip411 helps us with a citywide approach where we’re able to reach across populations, demographics, across crime types, and that’s a huge benefit. In this day and age, virtually everyone has a cellular phone or access to the internet, so it can reach a multitude of populations.

Frankly, I’m okay with people who want to engage with us anonymously – Whatever mechanism they feel comfortable with; you want to give them a tool that they will feel comfortable using. I’d rather they engage with us anonymously than not at all. This is what tip411 does, and I’m a true believer in that approach.

We started off with just tips, and then incorporated citizen alerts through the bundle package, so we were able to send out information vital to different geographic areas in the city and alert citizens about isolated incidents of crime or concerns specific to particular communities. We now have tip411 Pro and our own smartphone app that allows us to not only receive tips, but push out information specific to particular crimes, allows us to share crime mapping information, links to important agency information, as well as our social media accounts.

In 2016, our department received 435 unique tips through tip411, and I truly believe that all of the information we’re getting is intelligence that we probably never would have received if people didn’t have the ability to share it with us quickly, safely, and anonymously.

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Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A:
Many. One that comes to mind is when we had an individual wanted for armed robbery; we had been searching for him locally for quite a while. We got a tip from an individual who knew where he was and we were able to engage with them on tip411 and obtain additional information, which wasn’t included in the original tip. They were able to give us, down to the room number, where he was staying in a hotel in Louisiana. We gave that information to the US Marshals and they were able to apprehend him immediately. It also aided us in obtaining tactical information which was beneficial to our approach to the wanted person.

Another example occurred when we got information via text about a male at a certain location with a significant amount of marijuana. We got the tip, dispatched it quickly to some of narcotics oriented Patrol Officers, and they found nearly a pound of marijuana in the house.

Q: How do you use your department’s social media accounts with tip411 to help get the word out?
A:
We try to get tip411 information out to the public as much as we can to try to maximize its usage by residents and visitors to our area. We use it in virtually every instance in which we ask for the public’s assistance. Even when we use another social media platforms, like Twitter, to shares suspect images, videos, etc., we ask followers to submit information using tip411. It doesn’t matter to our agency if it is a routine retail theft case or a murder investigation, we include that as a resource to the public.

Q: What have you done to brand and promote the tip411 system in Clearwater?
A:
We try to feature it prominently on our website and we push it out as I said through Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. In every community alert that we send, we include our tip411 information. We put it on flyers, on crime alerts – just about anything we send to the public.

When we canvass neighborhoods and leave door hangers, our tip411 info is on them. We include it on our business cards, just about anywhere imaginable, so that tip411 is virtually synonymous – in the public’s mind – with the Clearwater Police Department.

Q: So, why tip411?
A: To me, one of the most significant aspects of tip411 is the “loop of communication” it creates, with the anonymous tipping and community alerts working together. Anyone can have what they describe as an “anonymous” tip service, but people are smart and they know if they have to send a tip through their email, that someone could trace it back to them one way or another.

That’s why, prior to tip411, we’ve had very limited success with other types of “anonymous” reporting services, because they know it could be tracked and that causes the public to be reticent to share information.  Our experience is that the public feels comfortable that they are truly anonymous with tip411 and that allows us to not only receive tips and information, but also have an opportunity to build trust and have additional communication with them.

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Walker County tip411 Launch Press Conference

With several of our customers currently attending the CADCA National Conference in Washington, D.C., we wanted to share this video from February of 2016 when the Walker County Sheriff’s Office launched tip411 with their District Attorney and Walker County Community in Action in a successful joint press conference.

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City of Hazard to Use tip411 Program for Utilities Alerts

The Hazard, Kentucky Police Department has been using tip411 to send alerts and receive anonymous tips since 2015.

Recently, the City of Hazard announced it would be using the Police Department’s tip411 system to send email and text alerts directly to residents with important information.

Listen to the announcement from Q95FM in Eastern Kentucky.

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Delhi Township Police Thank Tipsters

Delhi Township Police sent an alert using tip411 on January 13 asking for help identifying a suspect wanted for stealing items from a convenience store and then fleeing.

On January 18, Delhi Township Police sent a follow up alert stating the following:

“Thanks to tipsters, the below suspect has been identified, and warrants are now on file for his arrest. The suspect has been identified as Michael Campbell, age 36. Mr. Campbell’s last known address is on Westwood Ave in Cincinnati (District Three). If you know Mr. Campbell’s whereabouts, please contact Delhi Twp. Police at 513-922-0060 or Crimestoppers at 513-352-3040.”

Read the full alerts here and help Delhi Township Police locate this susptect

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Clinton PD rolls out alert system

The Clinton Police Department is extending another avenue of communication to the public, this time an alert system that allows citizens to get up-to-the-minute information on crime, traffic, weather and local events.

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The Tip411 Alert System is a component of the department’s existing Tip411 program designed to keep residents as informed as possible, while allowing police and those they serve to easily interact with each other. The department has been testing the system, which is similar to what other municipalities and colleges use.

Citizens choose to participate in the program and receive a text in the event of an emergency or other major events. The program is similar to the city’s ConnectCTY, but more direct and quicker than a phone call, city manager Shawn Purvis noted.

“This program allows citizens to subscribe to this alert, which they can receive either by text or email. It will alert people to such things as crime — say we have car break-ins in a neighborhood that we want to tell people about — or events, like a triathlon or N.C. 24 work, and we may have some traffic situations,” Police Chief Jay Tilley said.

Read the full story from the Sampson Independent.

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Minneapolis Mayor Asks Residents to use tip411 to Help Stop Homicides

tip411 can be a powerful took to help police and city governments combat crime, particularly homicides.

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Allowing residents to share information anonymously can help police receive tips they otherwise may not have, and close more cases.

Interested in learning how tip411 can help in your community? Click here for a free demo.

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Interview: Onondaga County, NY Sheriff’s Office

tip411 interviewed Captain Dan Brogan of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department in Onondaga County, New York.

Q: Tell us about Onondaga County and your department (how many residents, how many sworn, etc.).
A:
Onondaga County is located in Central New York and includes the city of Syracuse. The county is 827 square miles, has a population of over 750,000 residents, and our department has just over 220 sworn members.

Q: How is tip411 administered in the Sheriff’s department (responsibilities, protocols, etc.)?
A:
Our previous tip lines ran through the Public Information Office. When we set up tip411, we made the decision to have several administrators on the system who are responsible for being a clearinghouse for tips that are received. When they come in to myself, the Public Information Office, our Fusion Center, etc., we distribute the tips according to topic and assign them to individuals to respond and have tip conversations directly with the tipster.

Q: How is the tip411 system used in your community?
A:
The majority of tips we receive, without question, are for drug activity. Most people want to report drug activity because no one wants a drug house next door to them, but they don’t have great success by calling 911 with this information because, usually, there’s very little patrol can do when they respond.

Because people can share this information electronically through tip411 and they know it’s anonymous, they have been providing more specific information than they leave on our tip line where they have to leave a voice message.

When email came out years ago we saw a huge uptick in the amount of tips that came in that way, but once people realized that we could trace their IP address to find out where the tip came from and that it was not truly anonymous, they became much more skeptical of contacting us that way.

With tip411, there’s not that traceability which is great for the tipster, yet we are able to create an ongoing anonymous conversation and ask questions to get that one more piece of information that makes a tip actionable and helps us affect arrest.

Q: What have you done to brand and promote the tip411 system in Onondaga County?
A:
We’ve had success because we’ve done promotion of the system. We have the information on our website and almost every single night on the news there’s something from the Sheriff’s department about a crime and how we’re trying to identify a suspect and tip411 is available to share information safely and anonymously.

It’s also been helpful to us that the Syracuse Police Department and Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office are both using and promoting tip411 as well because it has added to a wider knowledge about the system with residents in our county.

Q: Any notable tips/arrests credited to tip411 that come to mind?
A:
What’s notable is the every day success we’re having with the system that we hadn’t seen before. We’re getting more tips, closing more cases, and being able to continue anonymous tip conversations with reporting party rather than just getting a voicemail with a piece of information that isn’t enough to help us build a case off of.

We’ve had neighbors and community groups in meetings tell us they’re glad we’ve taken care of this problem or that drug location, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it with tip411.

Q: Have you noticed an increase in the number of tips your department is receiving and cases you are solving since implementing tip411?
A:
We’ve absolutely seen an increase. Previously we got about one to two tips per week on our traditional phone tip line and through other avenues. We’re still seeing that, but in addition we’re now receiving about a tip per day through tip411.

Since launching our tip411 system in December of 2015, we’ve received approximately 225 tips. That’s 225 more tips than we would’ve gotten without tip411.

Of those 225 tips, we’ve opened 70 cases and closed nearly 80% of those through arrests.

I spent 14 years as Supervisor of the Narcotics Unit, and during that time we closed between 55% and 60% of cases based on tips that came in. The ones we didn’t make arrests on were because we couldn’t verify because there wasn’t enough information. With tip411, now we can go back and ask that one or two extra questions to make it more successful. For example, a tip about a blue car isn’t that helpful, but if we can follow up and get the tipster to share the license plate for the blue car, that really helps quite a bit and that’s why we’ve seen our arrest rate grow significantly with tip411.

Q: So, why tip411?
A: We got tip411 in December 2015 through a partnership with the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office and it’s been very successful for us. As I’ve said, it’s not just a substitute for other ways we have for people to submit tips, it’s an additional, anonymous avenue for people to reach us with important information that’s helping us get more information and close more cases.

Q: Anything you would tell other agencies considering tip411?
A: It’s a success. It’s had a proven track record of success with us for anonymous tips for narcotics because it allows you to communicate anonymously with the tipster and lets a lot more people come forward with more information.

People want to come forward, but they’re petrified. tip411 has helped remove that fear and has been a really a fantastic addition to our arsenal.