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California Department of Fish and Wildlife App Streamlines Violation Reports

The app broadens the department's reach in the community and gives the public a way to anonymously send a tip.

by Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star / May 20, 2015
(TNS) --  Whether it’s an oil spill in a remote canyon or something along a trail that just doesn’t seem right, officials want to make it easy for people to report a tip.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife has launched a smartphone app to reach more people and give them a way to anonymously send a tip.

The agency needs to reach the hikers, mountain bikers and others in the outdoors community, said Lt. Michael Milotz, Fish and Wildlife’s CalTIP coordinator.

“They have the same potential to see a violation out there,” Milotz said. “That’s a group that we haven’t really touched.”

Each year, the agency gets about 4,000 tips. Last year, it was 4,200, but Milotz would like to see that number more than double.

Jim Hines with the Los Padres Sierra Club hadn’t used the app yet but called it a great idea.

He regularly hears from people after they get back from hiking or backpacking about something they saw. They call him to find out who to tell, too.

“(The app) reaches so many more people, especially the younger generation,” Hines said.

The CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) app was launched as part of a pilot program a few months ago. In the weeks since, Milotz said, they have gotten more than 100 tips statewide.

Those covered a gamut of issues from fishing out of season to spills, and a large number came from Northern California.

Close to a half-dozen resulted in a citation or a formal complaint to the District Attorney’s Office, Milotz said.

In about 20 other cases, the activity had stopped by the time the warden got to the area. But the tip seemed credible and prompted prevention efforts such as increasing patrols in the area, Milotz said.

The idea is that the app will help streamline the process for those reporting a tip. But it also can streamline the process for the agency, which could help lead to a faster response.

In the past, Milotz got some tips by email. It sometimes took a days-long email conversation to get all the necessary details.

The app prompts users on what information to include and includes a button to submit photos. It still requires a signal to submit a tip.

People generally have their phones within an arm’s reach for much of the day, including in the outdoors, Milotz said.

It’s a large area to try to protect, he said. “We definitely can’t do it without the public’s help.”

The app can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App store or Google Play Store.

©2015 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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