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Crime Stoppers 2.0: techno tips from kids

Published 10:15pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beaufort County Crime Stoppers stepped up the crime-stopping game with new tip options aimed at the younger generation: text and Internet.
Rather than calling the Crime Stoppers hotline, kids can go straight to their cellphone or computer to get information about crimes directly to law enforcement, and without having to identify themselves to school administration or school resource officers. That’s the real plus, according to Crime Stoppers Coordinator Karen Ball: the anonymity of the process.
“(It’s) one of the main things I want people to know: I never see their name or number,” Ball said. “We never lay eyes on each other. It’s a good thing for the children.”
The text tips come straight to Ball’s cellphone via a third-party system that keeps names and numbers confidential. Texting a tip consists of dialing 274637 and in the body of the message typing BCSO131 plus their crime-stopping tip. Submitting a tip through the Crime Stoppers website (www.beaufortcountycrimestoppers.com) is as simple as following the “Tip Line” link and filling out an online form.
Both options protect the privacy of the tipsters even if Ball contacts them through live chat or text to ask follow-up questions. If a reward is involved, tipsters can claim their reward with the computer-generated code given to them when they submitted the tip.
“Once we make an arrest or recover stolen property, we get in touch with them to tell them where they can pick up the reward,” Ball explained.
Ball said she’s learned through other agencies already using text and Internet tip systems that the anonymity, along with the easy process, have also assisted in cases of concerned teens alerting authorities to a friend contemplating suicide, as well as others caught domestic violence situations.
Ball said with the new technology, she has constant access to Crime Stoppers tips.
“The beauty of it is that I get (tips) 24 hours day. I’m getting them in real time,” she said.
Many calls to the Crime Stoppers hotline are from mothers who see drug activity in the neighborhood and because of it, are scared to let their children go outside to play, Ball said. She believes making it easy for the techno-savvy to relay information to the authorities will go a long way in making schools and neighborhoods safer.
“Basically, I think it’s going to make the community a safer place to live, to work, and for the kids, a safer place to play,” Ball said.

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