Evanston Police are launching a new program, called “Text-a-Tip,” that lets citizens anonymously submit information to police using the text messaging function on cell phones.  Police officials say they hope the program will let them learn about more criminal activity and help clear unsolved crimes.

In addition to text, tips sent can include pictures, video and audio.

The program is already in use by other police departments around the country, and Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott says it’s been successful in clearing multiple types of police investigations.   

To send a tip from within the text messaging function of a cell phone, Parrott says users type “274637” –which spells out “CRIMES” — on the keypad in the phone number line. Then type “EPDTIP” in the message line and enter a tip with as much information as possible and press the send key.

Tipsters will automatically receive a response text providing a code which replaces the tipster’s phone number and becomes the tipster’s “alias”. This allows for tipsters to remain anonymous and if police need more information regarding the tip, police may send a text to the anonymous tipster’s alias requesting more information.

An independent third-party provider initially receives the texts from the tipster and does not provide any identifying information from the tipster to the police department. Only the alias code is provided to allow back and forth communication via texting if desired by the tipster and police.

The tipster can cancel any two-way texting with the police department by texting the word “STOP” to 274637 . This will block any further communication. No identifying information is retained or given to the police department in the “text-a-tip” program. All Tipsters remain anonymous.

The service is available around the clock and is monitored by the Emergency Communications Center at the police department.

The department solicits information from citizens on any type of crime occurring in the city, but citizens are encouraged to call “911” if the crime is in-progress or there is an emergency. Citizens can still remain anonymous when calling and speaking with a “911” Operator.

More information regarding “Text-a-Tip” is available on the city website. Tips can also be sent online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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