Tech savvy service allows tipsters to text crime tips

TipSoft says tipsters' phone numbers are encrypted to keep them anonymous / Sarah Bleau

Albany Crime Stoppers is investigating using new technology called "TipSoft" that allows people to text their tips or submit them online.

"People can go to our website, put a tip online on our website, upload a photograph if they have a photograph of the person we're trying to arrest," says Jason Thornhill with Albany Crime Stoppers.

The texting service will allow law enforcement and the tipster to create dialogue.

"It'll help us to actually connect with the tipsters on a more regular basis anonymously. We'll be able to talk to them back and forth through texts through a secure sever outside of the country," says Maj. Russell Barnes with the Albany Police Department.

One law enforcement officer raised the question about if a subpoena is issued for that number. A TipSoft representative said during Tuesday's Albany Crime Stoppers meeting that phone numbers used in text tips will be encrypted before they reach the service to keep tipsters completely anonymous.

"I feel very secure about that information; that was one of the questions that I had. We never want to breech anonymity: That's the premise of our organization," says Thornhill. "Technology is just moving at fast paces and we're doing our part to hopefully keep up with that."

Albany Crime Stoppers says the younger generation is more tech savvy, so they hope this makes them more forthcoming with information they give to Crime Stoppers. They say it will be a help with all the information they already receive through the phone line.

"People are wanting to keep their community safe, but we're in economic times where people need money and this is a quick way, if you provide a tip you can get cash in hand. So with that being said yes I do believe people are using our program even more than they have in the past," says Thornhill.

Barnes says, "We've seen more and more tips come in over about certain crimes and arrest resulting from those tips. People want their communities to be safe."

TipSoft will also help law enforcement maintain an electronic record-keeping system of the tips they receive, if the tip led to an arrest or recovery of items, and who receives a monetary reward.

"It's going to allow us to compile and present reports showing the success of different tips that have come in whether individually or aggregately," says Barnes."

Albany Crime Stoppers says they will decide by next week if they plan to move forward in establishing the TipSoft program in Albany.