December 24, 2009 By Corey McKenna
Text-a-tip programs are helping campus police promote school safety by increasing tipsters' anonymity and easing potential anxiety about providing information. Tip lines have existed for decades, but have the disadvantage that the perpetrator could overhear the person on the phone. Web-based tip lines are popular, but they require Internet access.
Police say texting tips is gaining ground because text messaging in general is so popular. Someone could witness something at a party and send a tip to police, without bringing attention to him- or herself.
Campus police at the University of Southern California (USC) promote the service as a way to maintain a pleasant environment for the more than 91,000 fans that may attend a football game.
USC also uses tips from the text-a-tip program as part of its Trojans Care for Trojans (TC4T) program. TC4T is run out of the university's Division of Student Affairs and encourages community members to help support other members who may be in trouble, distressed or otherwise need help, but don't want to pick up the phone. Texting gives them another option.
Text-a-tip programs also are becoming popular in state and city police departments, which collect tips related to public and school safety. A detective with the Tampa Bay, Fla., Police Department and program coordinator for the local Crime Stoppers tip line said the number of tips submitted via text message has been growing since the program's introduction in June 2009.
Go to Emergency Management's Web site to learn more about text-a-tip programs.