The TipSoft program works by assigning a new identification number to callers before information is forwarded to police. “The whole component of this is to let the community know they can give tips anonymously,” said Police Chief Allan Cantando. “There is no way for law enforcement to know who the tipster is.”
People can use the system by entering 274637 (“crimes”) where phone numbers are usually entered when writing a text message, and “Antioch” in the body of the message.
Once the message is sent, the information is sent to a server in Canada, where the tipster is given a new identification number. Once that number is sent, the tipster can start entering the anonymous tip in the body of the text message. The information obtained by the text message is forwarded to the Antioch Police Department’s Investigations Unit.
“From a criminal justice prosecution standpoint, there is no way the defense can write any search warrants for discovery requests to the country of Canada because they are not going to recognize our laws,” Cantando said.
The idea to adopt the system came from acting Lt. Diane Aguinaga, and arrives as crime continues to plague the city. According to the city’s latest crime statistics (through the month of May), the number of arrests are down, but rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson are all on the rise compared to the same time last year.
Antioch Mayor Jim Davis believes the ability to text the police should help solve cold cases. “It’s a great program, and yet another tool we can use to fight crime in this community,” Davis said.
The police department is the first in Contra Costa County to use the TipSoft program, and has signed a three-year deal with the company for $19,000.
“Anything we can do as a community to reduce crime is worth trying,” said City Councilmember Mary Rocha, “especially when people sometimes are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisal.”
Antioch residents can also get real-time crime updates through e-mails from Crimereports.com, which is affiliated with the TipSoft Program. Residents who sign up at Crimereports.com will be sent e-mails or texts alerting them of a crime and the approximate location where it occurred, said Cantando, who added that alerts would be especially helpful when reporting residential burglaries, vehicle burglaries and vehicle thefts: “A lot of times people have crimes occur in their neighborhood and aren’t even aware of it.”
A third component of the TipSoft Program allows police command staff to keep closer tabs on crime trends. The system’s software logs the time of day, day of week and general area of crimes so officers can detect trends in those categories.
The high-tech program arrives as the city’s police get a bump in manpower. On Monday, Antioch was awarded about $1.2 million through the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Grant to hire five more full-time officers and four more on a per-diem basis.