Text messages that help solve crime? There's an app for that. It's the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department new program called Text 2 Tip. Whether you see something suspicious or witness a crime, the hope is you'll now take the time to text about it.
"When something bad has happened, you stretch out that crime scene tape, people are there. If there's 100 people there's probably 95 cell phones out in that crowd," said Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers.
It's those cell phones that could help investigators get critical leads to criminal activity. And it's all through text messaging.
"There's somebody out there that knows something that's valuable to that investigation and what this does is provide another avenue to communicate that information," said Meyers.
Here's how Text 2 Tip works. People with cell phones can either download the app called "TIPWCSO" and send information through that. Or you can text "TIP411" and message "TIPWCSO" along with your lead. It's all anonymous, but what if you don't have a cell phone? You can use the sheriff's web page and use your computer instead.
The new program is one of many other anonymous programs already in place that rely on the public's eyes and ears to help investigators solve crimes. But Meyers says this targets a younger generation and can be even more discreet than Crime Stoppers.
"People standing in a crowd may not want to walk over and talk to a detective but they can actually while their standing there in the crowd be texting on their phone like everybody else is. But they could be texting the 411 program," said Chief Deputy Kurt Ditzler.
The program costs the department about $6,000 for 24 months. Sheriff Meyers says that money isn't coming from taxpayers, but from drug seizure funds.
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