PORTLAND — In an attempt to adapt to what the police chief calls a “no-snitching culture,” the Police Department has set up an anonymous text message service and Web reporting form.
Text-a-Tip is designed to allow people to share information with police without fear of retaliation from those involved in the crime they are reporting.
“People are afraid to report crime,” Police Chief James Craig said in a Sept. 23 press conference.
Text-a-Tip and the Web Tip programs are provided by Canadian crime tip management company TipSoft, and are used by police departments throughout the U.S.
To text a tip, mobile phone users should text the word “GOTCHA” along with their message to 274637 (which spells “crimes”). The message is encrypted and sent through a secure server at TipSoft, where it is also stripped of any identifying information. The tip then goes to Portland dispatch and to five high-ranking members of the department.
Police are able to respond to the tipster, through the same system.
“We have no way of identifying who sent us the tip,” Craig said.
To submit an anonymous tip through the Internet, tipsters should log on to portland-police.com and select the “Submit an Anonymous Crime Tip” link.
Information about how to anonymously report a tip will also be displayed in the rear window of police cruisers.
According to Craig, the Text-a-Tip program has been successful in several cities where tips have helped stop crimes before they happen. In Boston, he said, it helped police solve a homicide.
Craig said that within 24 hours of the program going live police had received two good tips, including one about a drug deal in progress.
Police hope someone might use the anonymous tip tools to provide information on Portland’s recent unsolved murders, including that of Mercy Hospital security guard James Angelo, and Darien Richardson, who died as a result of complications from a gunshot wound.
“Someone in our (community) knows who is responsible,” Craig said.
Several local businesses provided financial support for the program.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org