Linn Co. Crime Stoppers Now Takes Text Message Tips

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Tips about crime and criminals are something every police department counts on. But various law enforcement agencies in Linn County hope newer technology brings in even more new tips.

Every department in Linn County participates in the Crime Stoppers program. It's a familiar toll free number (1-800-CS-CRIME or 1-800-272-7463) that often generates anonymous calls to report a crime or suspicions about criminal activity. The change is instead of just a phone calls, the coordinators of the program in Linn County now have a way to handle text messages from the public as well.

Currently, Linn County Crime Stoppers gets about 15 to 20 calls a month. But with so many people preferring to text instead of call these days, organizers fell a "Text a Tip" program would bring in even more useful information.

Roy Nowers, President of the Linn County Crime Stoppers board, said based on conversations with other departments that have tried texting, the amount of information flowing into all the Linn County law enforcement agencies should go up.

"I think we'll double or triple that number (15-20 per month). The counties we've talked to and the towns that have this, they've seen their tips go up more than double, more than triple," Nowers said.

The system operated in Linn County is accessed through the www.smscrimetips.com web site. It went live about two weeks ago, but was just announced by authorities on Thursday at a news conference.

Users with a "smart phone" capable of sending text messages, can sent a text to CRIMES (274637) as the receiving number. The next step is to put the number 5227 on the message or subject line and then type in a text message. An officer on the receiving end of the crime tip text can reply back in real time. Users, as with the Crime Stoppers phone line, can remain anonymous or receive a unique identifier code that would qualify them for a reward based on the quality of information.

Rewards, decided by the Crime Stoppers board, can range up to $2,500.

Terry Bilsland, President of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, said residents in his neighborhood maintain an active crime watch program. He can see accepting crime tips via text message may have some positive impact.

"They (tipsters) could do it quicker and they wouldn't have to worry about somebody telling them 'don't snitch.' They could get it done and be anonymous," Bilsland said.

Police said the Crime Stoppers communications, both via phone or text, are monitored by an officer during regular business hours. But true emergency calls should go to the familiar 9-1-1 system.
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