Seeking to embrace new technology to fight crime, the Pickerington Police Department is in the process of purchasing software that will allow it to receive crime tips via mobile phones while maintaining the anonymity of the tipster.
Police Cmdr. Matt Delp advised Pickerington City Council's Safety Committee March 20 the department wants to purchase TipSoft SMS from Anderson Software.
The product permits mobile phone users to anonymously text crime tips to the police department without giving up their personal information.
The company proclaims it uses an innovative "double-alias" approach to ensure the anonymity of a tipster is not compromised.
According to TipSoft's website, a crime tip is sent to a server in Canada where it is encrypted and assigned an alias and then forwarded to a server in the United States and assigned a second alias.
Once the second alias is assigned, the informant's text message is routed to the local police or Crime Stoppers. The process ensures that neither TipSoft nor the locality have access to the informant's cell phone number.
Delp said implementing the program in Pickerington is a wise choice, especially because the police department can have a text dialogue with the tipster and ask pertinent questions regarding a crime in progress.
"They know they're speaking with the police department."
He said both Dublin and Springfield have utilized the program in their police departments with successful results, especially in the schools.
"It's really popular in high schools," Delp said.
He said students will be able to text information about activity like scheduled fights after school or where stolen stereo equipment can be located, among other things.
He said tipsters can also attach photographs to the text message.
"What number do I text?" asked Pickerington City Councilman Jeff Fix.
"Whatever number we set up, whatever is available, (it will be) something easy to remember," Delp said.
He said the Pickerington Police Department plans to advertise the TipSoft program throughout the community, but especially the schools.
"We'll hit the high schools really hard with fliers, that's where the majority of our tips will come from," Delp said.
Fix expressed concern police might be inundated with false tips, straining the department's limited resources.
Delp said that scenario was possible, but the department nonetheless is "going to try this for a year.
"If it's successful, perhaps we'll partner with the schools to help us with the cost," he said.
Delp said the cost of the TipSoft SMS service is $1,980 a year.