November 9, 2008 By Elaine Rundle
Sending police crime-related information via text message might seem like a no-brainer to the nonstop, text-messaging public. But in reality, it's a relatively new tactic making its way across the country.
Some police departments looking to encourage citizens to share crime-related information are offering the new option. The move seems inevitable because 363 billion text messages were sent in the United States in 2007, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association.
"The text-a-tip line is new, 21st-century technology that allows us to use another tool," said Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police. "Cell phones are popular among all age groups, and we have introduced them as another tool to assist us in fighting crime."
Citizens can rest assured that sending a text message tip to the police department won't compromise their anonymity. The text-a-tip programs are Internet-based, and the text messages are run through third-party companies' servers that encrypt the cell phone numbers before the messages reach the police department.
Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department encourages citizens to "give the 5-0 the 411" -- street slang for communicating with police. Hence the number is 50411 for sending text message crime tips.
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