Law enforcement is slowly embracing social media as a crime
fighting tool. The latest example was announced Monday in Northampton
Massachusetts, as we hear from WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul
The Northwestern District Attorney, David Sullivan announced the
launch of a text-a-tip program designed to help police solve crimes in
the 47 cities and towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties.
The program allows people with a cell phone to send information
anonymously to law enforcement. There can be dialogue between police and
the tipster, but only if the tipster allows it.
Sullivan acknowledged that law enforcement, in general, has
been slow to embrace opportunities such as text-a-tip, which he
attributed to generational differences.
Although new to Hampshire and Franklin counties, text-a-tip is
not new to the region. The Springfield police department has had a
text-a-tip program since 2009 and has seen an increase in crime-solving
tips, according to Sergeant John Delaney, an aid to Springfield's police
Police in Boston have also seen an increase in crime tips via
anonymous text message.
Massachusetts State Police Sergeant Detective Tom Bakey believes
the success of text-a-tip in urban areas will be duplicated in the
mostly rural communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties.
To provide an anonymous text-a-tip to police in any community in
Hampshire and Franklin counties, people can text the code word
"protect" and their message to "CRIMES" ( 274-637). There is also a
separate code word "kidsafe" which can be used to report suspected child
Assistant District Attorney Christine Tetreault heads a special
project in the Northwestern District Attorney's office that targets
crimes such as child pornography and enticement of minors via the
internet. In addition to text-a-tip, police and prosecutors have
recently created a computer forensic lab, installed technology to
retrieve data from cell phones, and other electronic media, and created
a database to track sex offenders on parole or probation.
The text-a-tip program in the Northwestern D-A-s office is being
paid for by a two year, $493 thousand grant from the US Justice
Department. D-A Sullivan says he will keep the program in the budget for
his office after the grant runs out. He said if text-a-tip solves one
major crime, it will have paid for itself.