The Billings Police Department is moving a two-year-old texting program back to the forefront in an effort to help officers and detectives solve more crimes.
Text-A-Tip, which police introduced two years ago, allows residents to send an anonymous text message to police to report information related to a crime.
Lt. Kevin Iffland said that on Thursday police posted the Text-A-Tip program on the department’s Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/BillingsPD.
“We were getting steady tips in when we introduced the program a couple years ago, but it dropped off a little bit,” Iffland said. “We revamped it to get it out there again. It’s an easy way for people to shoot us information so that we can do whatever we need to do.”
By way of special software and as part of the department’s Crimestoppers program, the texts come to police anonymously, although police are able to discover who the tipsters are in at least one circumstance: The tip has led to an arrest and conviction and the tipster is owed a reward through Crimestoppers.
Tipsters can text BPDTIP and their message to “Crimes” (274637). They can text STOP to 274637 to cancel and HELP to 274637 for help. Message and data rates may apply.
Over the past 10 days or so, police received seven texted tips, all of them related to possible drug crimes, Iffland said. While not all the tips prove helpful, few of them are bogus, he said.
“A great percentage of these are what the person believes is legitimate information,” he said, “but once in a while we get one we disregard.”
In tandem with the software police use to support the Crimestoppers program, tools like Text-A-Tip are valuable because they help police work more efficiently by more easily coordinating their efforts, Iffland said.
“Before we upgraded our software, the only method people could use was to call us,” he said. “Social media is a surprisingly good method to get information out there. It’s amazing to see how many people have viewed a particular page.”
The department’s Facebook page has received more than 5,000 “Likes,” Iffland said. Some posts have been viewed more than 100,000 times.
“What’s the best use of (social media)? We are still at the beginning stages of finding out,” Iffland said. “But it still seems to be a productive way of getting information out there.”