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Text a tip: CrimeStoppers has a new way to collect clues

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Ted Sullivan
March 1, 2009
— In an effort to keep up with high-tech methods of communication, Janesville Area CrimeStoppers is offering a new way to submit crime tips: text messages.

Residents can use their cell phones to text tips to CrimeStoppers beginning Monday. The messages go to the Janesville Police Department.


“Everybody’s texting,” officer Chad Sullivan said. “This is going to be a very good way to get information.”


People can text 274637 to submit a crime tip. In the body of the text, senders must type JACS and then the message. Senders remain anonymous because the texts are encrypted.


Tipsters also can go online and send tips via the Internet.


Messages will be received instantly 24 hours a day, Sullivan said, and police officers on the receiving end can reply if they need more information.


In the past, phone tips went to voicemail after 3 p.m. weekdays and on weekends, Sullivan said. And police had no way of returning the call if the tipster didn’t leave a phone number, he said.


The result was that officers couldn’t respond quickly enough or get certain details if they were left out, Sullivan said.


The text feature also allows more anonymity and real-time interaction with an ongoing criminal situation, said Christine Rebout, president of Janesville Area CrimeStoppers.


For example, a student might want to report a kid with a gun at school without being seen or heard talking to a police officer or teacher, or a bank employee could communicate with police during an ongoing robbery.


“You can text in the pocket of your sweatshirt if you wanted to,” Rebout said.


Police hope to reach more children and teens with the text and online features, Rebout said. Most kids have cell phones and computers.


Last year, CrimeStoppers received 128 tips, leading to 101 arrests, Sullivan said. The number of tips is expected to increase with the new technology.


“I expect the phone calls to really go down. We could get 500 tips in my mind,” Sullivan said. “I expect us to solve more crimes, seize more drugs and take more weapons off the street.”


CrimeStoppers donated the text and online software, Rebout said. It cost about $3,000.


Rock County is one of the few areas in Wisconsin using the new technology.


“It’s very cutting edge for us,” Rebout said. “That’s very exciting.”


Officials are optimistic about the software.


“If someone will be a good witness for us and give us the information, we can work that information to solve that crime,” Sullivan said. “People in our city, they are the police department’s eyes and ears.”


HAVE A TIP?


To send an anonymous crime tip:


--Call 756-3636.


--Send a text message to 274637. Make sure to type JACS and the tip in the body of the message.


--Go to http://stopjanesvillecrime.com.


--Go to your nearest law enforcement agency.



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