flickr picture from davidsonscott15

This is a guest blog entry from Karin Gerber.

Ever been a witness to a crime and wished you could say or do something without having to put yourself at risk?  There is a new way to inform the police about anything from a robbery in progress to an assault in a club without having to expose yourself, removing that feeling of wanting to help but not wanting to risk the safety of yourself or your family.  You do this by sending your local police department an anonymous tip by the use of text messages.

This feature is offered by Tip411, a service operated by Citizen Observer.

Citizen Observer is a web based toolset for law enforcement that features anonymous text tips, group alerting and secure social media publishing tools.  (via @CitObserver at Twitter)

Tip411 is reserved for public safety and is currently only operating in 27 states.  I do see it eventually expanding to other states as popularity grows, simply because we live in a day and age where people are text messaging more than talking on their phones.  Sending a tip as a quick text message is just much easier.  The sense of anonymity also helps the police in solving crimes by making the tips easier to get to.

Tip411 works by sending a text message to 847411 with the police department’s code word and the tip.  When you send your text, your cell phone number is scrambled, giving you a sense of security to step forward.  You are then given a code before your tip is forwarded to the participating police department. This allows anonymous, real-time texting between the police and the tipster.

The only caveat I can see with this feature is some people abusing the service, especially since it is anonymous.  How will law enforcement handle these abusers?  How can they distinguish between a real tip or a prankster?  I still say that this feature is great for people who don’t feel comfortable calling in a crime tip, but still want to help out their local police.  I do believe most people out there will use the service for good more than for bad.  Also understand that Tip411 doesn’t replace calling 911 for emergencies.

The listing for some of the participating police departments across the U.S. can be found at CitizenObserver.com under Communities.