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Detroit Police To Open Third Party Text Tip Line

Detroit Police To Open Third Party Text Tip Line

Detroit Free Press via YellowBrix

January 13, 2010

DETROIT, MI – For weeks, the black-and-orange billboard loomed over I-94 with an ambiguous and ominous one-word message: CRIME.

Today, the rest of the billboard’s message is to be unveiled as the Detroit Police Department announces a new text-message tip campaign designed to let otherwise reluctant witnesses give the police information anonymously.

“I think it fits excellently with what many people love to do now — text,” Chief Warren Evans said Tuesday. “People can pick up a cell phone and look like they’re texting a buddy, when they’re actually giving us valuable information in real time.”

The police department bought two billboards along I-94 and I-75, as well as ads on or inside every Detroit Department of Transportation bus with the new message: “CRIME. See it. Text it.”

Police spokesman John Roach said the $158,000 campaign is funded with drug forfeiture money, not taxpayers’ money.

“I think that’s money well spent, no matter where it came from,” said Howard Katzman, 43, whose friend Lillard (Jack) Harper was killed in Detroit on April 23. The shooting death remains unsolved.

Police “need people to step forward,” Katzman said.

Here’s how the system will work: The texts are sent to 847411 and routed through an independent third party that will not pass along the number from which the text originated before forwarding it to Detroit police. The officer who receives the text can reply to ask for more information, but that text goes through the third party, so the tipsters and the officer never have direct contact.

Evans said the idea is to make it easier for people — especially the city’s youths, many of whom text more often than they talk on the phone — to pass along license plates, suspect information or other tips that might help police in an investigation.

“People will be skeptical at first,” Evans acknowledged, “but hopefully it will pick up momentum.”

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Copyright © 2010, Detroit Free Press

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