Westchester County Police Launch New Web-Tip Software

Westchester County law enforcement has added a new weapon to its arsenal of justice with the launch of a new anonymous tip system that allows its users to text information to local police via smartphone, cell phone, tablet, or web-enabled computer.

Accompanied by the Westchester County Crime Tips app, available free of cost for iPhone and Android devices, the program—titled tip411—adopts the “prevalent” communicative measures of today—people speaking “not only by a telephone,” says Lucian Chalfen, director of communications for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, but also through text and email. Tips, photos, and video are all accepted.

37 of the 42 police agencies in Westchester County will utilize the software, developed by a Minnesota company called CitizenObserver.

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Chalfen says that in encouraging people to reach out, the messages and subsequent interactions between residents and police are completely anonymous. The software prevents the tracing or identifying of the sender. This same system has been in use by the Yonkers Police Department for the past four years. After a soft launch of the program last week, Chalfen explains that officials have now “integrated [Yonkers’ methods] into the whole county,” providing the Westchester-wide public with this progressive option.

Misuse of this web-tip system in Yonkers has not been a particular issue, according to Chalfen, as all information received is both “screened and verified” to avoid the type of lewd pranks or abuse that is all too easy to find on the internet.

The new program, however, is not a substitute for 911 in emergency situations. Authorities state that, “If you need police or other emergency responders you should still call 911.”

How to download the app or send a tip:

• WC Crimetips on the iTunes Store

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• WC Crimetips on the Google Play Store

• Through the “Westchester County Crime Tips” Facebook page

For sending a tip via text, send your tip to “tip411” (847411) plus the keyword that can be found on the Westchester County Crime Tips Facebook page listed above.

According to a press release, tip411 does:

• Protect the anonymity of the sender by assigning a six-digit code with numbers and letters.
• Removes all identifying information before the police department sees it so there’s no way to identify the sender.
• Allow messages to be responded to in real time creating an instant two-way live “chat.”
• Give residents the ability to text photos and/or video.
• Give residents access to police who are familiar with the local area, so they know the best questions to ask.
• Allow the public to text information about drug activit and other suspicious, or criminal activity involving people with outstanding warrants and cold cases.
• Give residents a way to submit evidence for active cases, and detectives do other work to verify the validity of the tip.
• Store the tips on servers in different locations nationwide that are managed by the vendor.

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And here’s what it doesn’t do:

• It doesn’t track the identity of the tipster.
• It is not a substitute for calling 911. If you need police or other emergency responders you still should call 911.
• It does not retain data after the tipster completes the “chat.”

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