Program allows anonymous crime tips from mobile devices

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Samantha Jacquest
Friday, August 16, 2013

ELKHORN–The Walworth County Sheriff's Office hopes to significantly increase anonymous crime tips by allowing people to contact Crime Stoppers through text message, email and web links.

Walworth County is one of many law enforcement departments that have started using TipSoft, a program that allows people to send anonymous tips through mobile devices or computers that are immediately sent to the coordinating officer's email.

The program is live in Walworth County. The city of Janesville in Rock County has been using it for five years.

Deputy Dan Nelson is coordinating officer of the Walworth County's Crime Stoppers. Once he learned of the new technology, he knew it was a necessary addition, especially for younger people who frequently use smartphones, tablets and computers, he said.

“We realized we weren't at our full potential with the Crime Stoppers program with only doing the phone line.”

A person can text a tip to Crime Stoppers in Walworth County by typing Tip4WC, then a message to CRIMES (274637). Officials ask people to provide as much detail as possible, including the nature of the crime and identifying features of people, license plate numbers and anything else that might be useful.

Tips can also be sent by calling 262-723-2677 or online at https://www.tipsubmit.com/webtips.aspx?AgencyID=1192. The website provides a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to get all the necessary information.

If a tip is sent to the wrong department, the coordinating officer will forward it to the correct one.

“We found that giving people three ways to give information to Crime Stoppers, and two of them being where they don't have to talk to anyone, they really take advantage of those opportunities,” said Officer Chad Sullivan of the Janesville Police Department.

Sullivan has been working with TipSoft for five years and encouraged Nelson to implement the program.

“TipSoft has made my life so much easier as a police coordinator, and we have been so much more successful because of the program,” Nelson said.

According to a release about the program, TipSoft has led to 145,000 arrests, 55,000 fugitives caught and more than $5.3 billion recovered in drugs and property nationwide.

Sullivan said he chose TipSoft because its database strongly protects the tipster's identity. Whenever a tip is sent in, it first goes to a server in Canada and gets encrypted so law enforcement is unable to find out where the tip came from. It is then sent to the coordinating officer.

“It's an extra line of defense so we can protect the tipster for giving us the crime information,” Sullivan said.

TipSoft is handled completely by Crime Stoppers, and the organization has been fundraising to pay for the $4,500 three-year contract. Based on TipSoft's effectiveness in other cities and counties, he believes it is worth the expense.

“For every dollar we spend on the program, we should save $1,500 in property damage from solving crimes,” Nelson said.

Nelson said Walworth County hasn't received any tips through TipSoft yet, and he  hopes to get the word out about the program at the Walworth County Fair over Labor Day weekend.

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