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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 3 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 01
New technologies allow users to call, click or text crime reports
Section One
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New technologies allow users to call, click or text crime reports

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Technology has changed life as we know it. It has affected the way we pay bills, listen to music, communicate with our loved ones and much more. There are pros and cons to living in a connected world, but one thing is certain: There is no stopping technology, and that is a wonderful thing for police when it comes to reporting crime.

Thanks to technology, there are more ways to submit tips on crime than ever before.

'The Electronic Security Association (ESA) rounded up the top methods citizens are using to help police nab criminals through crime reporting,' reports Bob Ogle, communications specialist at ESA.

'Telephone tip lines have been around long before the first episode of America's Most Wanted aired in 1988,' he continued. 'Thanks to the ease, immediacy, and - most importantly - anonymous nature of tip lines, this tried-and-true method is still used by police departments nationwide.'

When calling a tip line, the caller will be connected to an operator who will ask a series of detailed questions regarding the crime. Callers will be discouraged from identifying themselves and may be disconnected if they give a self-description.

'The information from the caller will be analyzed and sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency,' said Ogle.

While many local police departments have individual tip hotlines, citizens may report crimes to an independent national hotline by calling 1-800-78-CRIME.

'As text-based messaging (SMS texts and email) steadily increases as the preferred method of communication versus traditional phone calls (43 percent and 57 percent of adults in the United States, respectively), tip lines have had to adapt to new methodology,' said Ogle. 'Today, citizens have the ability to submit tips and photos anonymously via text, smartphone apps or an online form. To ensure complete anonymity, these tips usually go through a third-party application to strip the tipster's identifying details such as a phone number, geo-location or IP address before sending to police.'

Contact SPD to learn more about submitting tips through text message or an online form:

http://www.seattle.gov/police/contact_form.htm. Smartphone users may report crimes by downloading the TipSubmit mobile app.

The presence of adults in the U.S. on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has exploded in the recent years. In a 2013 study, the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reported that 72 percent of adults who are online use social networking websites. Now, law enforcement agencies are using these popular websites to fight crime.

In a 2012 study conduct by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), 92 percent of the law enforcement agencies surveyed reported that they use social media, and the most common use of these networks is for criminal investigations. Nearly three-fourths of respondents reported that social media has helped solve crimes in their jurisdictions.

Facebook is the network most utilized by police departments and is used to enlist help from the community to catch criminals by posting videos, photos and descriptions of suspects or local crimes. Posts can also alert the public of impending natural disasters, major accidents or other news that pertains to the safety of the community. Additionally, citizens are able to notify police of unsafe road conditions, automobile accidents, crimes they have witnessed or about which they have information, and much more.

Whether it's by phone, text, web or Facebook, it doesn't matter how you tell the police about local crime - it just matters that you report it. Even a tip on suspicious activity can lead to an arrest involving a larger crime. Crime reporting is everyone's business; use new technology to do your part to maintain the safety of your community.

For more information about safety and security, please visit www.Alarm.org.

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