Text messages are the latest arrows in the quiver police can draw from to fight crime.
In 2015, Nanaimo and District Crime Stoppers added texting to the ways tips can be submitted and while the technology hasn’t sent tip numbers soaring – 548 tips were made to Nanaimo Crime Stoppers in 2015 versus 513 in 2014 – tipping online has vastly improved the quality of information police can follow up.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman and Nanaimo and District Crime Stoppers coordinator, said tips from smartphones, laptops and tablets allow for two-way dialogue between Crime Stoppers and tipsters.
“Right there, the information taker can acknowledge the tip and say, ‘Can you supply any further information on this guy?’” O’Brien said. “They can submit electronically, they get an alias and they can go to a secure login and they can send and receive e-mails.”
The more information police get, the better the odds of solving outstanding cases.
“I would say within five years people won’t be telephoning tips in because the problem with that is the call taker has no way of communicating with the tipster unless they call in again,” O’Brien said. “It’s very frustrating.”
Ensuring the anonymity of the tipster has always been crucial to Crime Stoppers’ success. To protect identities, tipsters are instructed how to erase communications with Crime Stoppers and Crime Stoppers software scrubs IP addresses off tipsters’ communication devices.
But such security leaves Crime Stoppers with little in the way of bragging rights.
“One day the newspaper reports some heinous crime has been committed in your community and police have no suspects and no leads and the next day, miraculously, it’s solved and the bad guy’s in jail,” said Chuck Campbell, Nanaimo and District Crime Stoppers president. “What I tell people is, ‘Think Crime Stoppers.’”
Crime Stoppers’ security methods are standardized in the 40 countries in which it operates and Crime Stoppers International is taking a broader role in fighting transnational crime.
“Human trafficking will be a big-ticket item in the Crime Stoppers arena over the next several years,” Campbell said.
“The other thing I think you’ll see more of is domestic terrorism. There is no anonymous venue for people to report to the authorities except Crime Stoppers.”
For more information on Crime Stoppers, or to submit a tip, please visit www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.