Detroit Police Taking Tips from Texts, Facebook

Want to help solve a crime in Detroit? Don’t call 911.  Just update your Facebook status.

Beginning today, the Detroit Police Department is rolling out a three-phase communication plan that will draw upon e-mail, cell phone and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace in hopes of getting out pertinent information and getting in tips, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“One little smidge of information is all we need to get on the right track,” Deputy Chief James Tolbert said. “We will end up arresting a lot of people using this.”

Phase one of the plan is the launch of Network Alert, which will allow citizens to sign up for APB-type alerts, such as descriptions of missing or wanted people, via e-mail and text message.

Phase two will be the launch of a tip line which will allow citizens to send anonymous crime tips via voice or text. The line will be encrypted to ensure anonymity, and not even police will have access to the tipster’s info.

Phase three, coming within the next month, will be the social networking profiles.

The department will be one of the first in the country to use the reach of social networking for tip-gathering.

Police are trying to counter the “don’t snitch” mentality that is prominent in the city’s high-crime areas, and foster a culture of trust without fear of retribution from criminals.

The program, which has a two year cost of about $70,000, is funded by drug forfeiture funds from Detroit, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals and other agencies that work with the city on task forces, according to the Free Press report.

The Network Alert system, which should begin sending alerts as soon as this week, will allow citizens to specify which district or precinct they’d like to hear from. The project is coordinated by CitizenObserver, which already works with agencies throughout Michigan.

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