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Text messages tip off Sanford police about crime

Posted April 13, 2009

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— Crime-fighting has gone high-tech and mobile in Sanford as residents anonymously tip off police via text messages.

"Text messaging is new, and everybody's using it," Sanford Police Maj. Kevin Gray said. "We're just looking for any way to get information to solve crimes."

Texting helps Sanford police fight crime Texting helps Sanford police fight crime

Sanford's text-messaging system for crime tips is the first in North Carolina, department officials said. It supplements a 25-year-old phone system that was getting fewer and fewer calls, Gray said.

The tips are also anonymous; police officers never see the tipsters' name or phone number. However, officers can text back, asking for more information.

"It may be a drug deal, could be any kind of activity," City Manager Hal Hegwer said.

Tipsters send a message beginning with 919SPD to Tip411. The message first goes to Minneapolis-based CitizenObserver, which Sanford pays about $2,000 a year to strip text messages of identifying information.

About two minutes after the text is first sent, the message pops up on a computer screen in the Sanford Police Department.

Hegwer, who came up with the idea, said he thinks texting crime tips will catch on with young people – hopefully generating more leads for police.

"The fact that you can communicate without even hearing the voice, I think that will catch on, because (among) younger generations, there's millions of folks using this kind of technology daily," Hegwer said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ambidextrous cat Apr 14, 2009

    Finally something useful has come from text messaging! Why can this not be used in Raleigh. If I had a tip I would send it in as well as cash in! Aren't people paid for tips?

  • JofNC Apr 13, 2009

    Okay, I just visited the Sanford Police Dept's websit and it says to:

    Enter: tip411 as the number you are sending the text to.

    Then: In the beginning of your message, type 919SPD this is so the service base will know where to send the texted tip.

    Followed by: Any information you wish to be texted to the Police.

  • JofNC Apr 13, 2009

    I don't think the article is very clear on how to send the text message. This article needs to be clarified!

  • whocares Apr 13, 2009

    Maybe they should try this in Durham and Wake Counties. It couldn't hurt and it might even help keep the crime rate down.

  • 4LeafClover Apr 13, 2009

    Living in Sanford & working with young people, I honestly believe this system is a great idea. The kids (and community as a whole) are so stuck on the idea of not "snitching" that they refuse to turn in information even when they know it’s the right thing to do. This new system will allow more people to be helpful & yet remain in their comfort zone. The third party removes all signs of where the tip came from. The Sanford PD will receive only the information given, whether it turns out to be good or not. It may not be perfect or even turn out to be hugely popular - but it definitely is a step up from the old phone-in system and is much more up to date with how young people are communicating. The important thing here is that the SPD is making an effort to stay current with the community. Sad that far too many people are critical & suspicious of law enforcement, enabling so many bad things to occur within our community because they do not want to become involved.

  • cuffusion Apr 13, 2009

    Of course the Agency can determine the origin of the text message... the nature of SMS is based upon a connection oriented communication.. even if it goes through a "scrubbing" service like this one there are many records of the transaction and it is easily retrieved if needed.

    I am of mixed opinion as to the benefits.. on one hand it may be a benefit if it provides leads that were otherwise missed.. on the other it can lead to significant expenditure of manpower following messages without basis.. guess thats the tradeoff..

  • tot42 Apr 13, 2009

    actualy if you do your research, there are hundreds of l.e. agencies using this technology. and NO the departments can not find out who is sending the information. all identifying info is removed from the tip before it is forwarded. even if a police department wanted to find out they couldn't. besides, if they could and people found out that would kind of ruin the whole premeis would it not

  • simracer68 Apr 13, 2009

    "How long before criminals start using this as a way to send police on a wild goose chase while they're committing the real crime?"

    They'd only do this once. The Sanford PD can go back to the company that provides this service and get the contact information if it turns out bogus. Besides...Sanford has more than one cop. Distracting an entire PD with only one prank call/text would have only worked in Mayberry.

  • tot42 Apr 13, 2009

    why is it that when a law enforcement agency attempts to do something worthwhile, people with nothing better to do always have negative comments

  • bill52674 Apr 13, 2009

    How long before criminals start using this as a way to send police on a wild goose chase while they're committing the real crime?