Crimestoppers Could Start Using Text Messaging

Saturday, September 29th 2007, 7:06 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ One of the nation's first Crimestoppers programs likely needs more money if it is to become able to better utilize modern technology such as text messaging, according to program officials.

Oklahoma City police started the local Crimestoppers program in 1979, becoming the third city in the U.S. to do so, Police Master Sergeant Charles Phillips said. Police say the program has resulted in more than 152,000 tips leading to more than 5,660 arrests.

But Phillips, who became the program's coordinator in March 2006, said the program's success rate could be improved through the use of text messaging.

He said that soon after Boston police, who had seen phone calls to their tip line dwindle, added the option of text messaging, they were able to arrest two murder suspects and received hundreds of text messages.

To duplicate the Boston program, Oklahoma City's program would need to be able to afford a remote answering service and would have to be marketed in a way to successfully reach its target audience. Both those would require money.

``What I would really like to have is a business or corporate sponsor to underwrite the text message program,'' Phillips said. ``The rate that things are changing is incredible, and that's not a bad thing. It's a good thing, but in order to change with the needs of the people, you have to have support from the people.''

The Oklahoma City program's current success is a reason for the financial issues, Phillips said.

``In the last year and a half, we have seen a big increase in tips,'' Phillips said. ``That translates into an increase in the number of arrests, which means we pay more rewards.''

Phillips said that in the past 18 months, the number of tips received through the Internet at has quadrupled and now account for half of the total tips received.

``I can only imagine what things will be like years from now,'' he said.