As Clinton investigators continue piecing together evidence in thefts at Sessoms Jewelry and Mike's Hunt Shop, they are also unveiling a new high-tech system that allows for anonymous texting of tips, something they hope will help them in these crimes as well as others.
Called Tip411, the system has three different features, the first being introduced this week, with others to follow.
Given authorities just released surveillance photos of “persons of interest,” in their latest theft investigation, Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley is hoping the new texting tool will be utilized to help identify those caught on camera.
“We have video showing these individuals (three males, 2 females and a baby) who came into the jewelry store approximately a week ago. We are just looking at the circumstances surrounding their being in the store. They really may not be involved, but we have some questions we need to ask.”
And the police chief is hoping the photos combined with the new texting system will lead officers to exactly who these individuals are.
With a simple text, citizens who may know something about a crime, may have witnessed a crime or have an issue they want police to address can provide that information. And it remains anonymous.
“It's a great system,” Tilley said, noting that officers decided to roll out the first feature this week because of the Sessoms and hunt shop thefts.
“It was the ideal time to get this rolling. It might just be the thing that helps us solve these cases.”
It works like this: Residents should text to 847411 and type TIPCPD as the initial words in the text followed by the information they want to provide.
TIPCPD (can be typed in upper or lower case) is the key word and must be the first one used in the text for the system to work as it should.
The texts are routed to a software company where all subscriber information is omitted before being sent to the Police Department, where six individuals have been assigned to review and disseminate the tips to the appropriate division.
“This is not for emergencies,” Tilley cautioned. “This is strictly for use in providing tips.”
The web-based texting tool allows residents to remain anonymous yet receive responses back from police via emails sent to them by the software company.
“We realize that technology is some of our best tools in helping to solve crimes, and we want to be proactive in using them,” the chief stressed.
Coming in about a week will be the second feature of the new web-based program, which will allow residents to text photos to the PD, again anonymously.
“Everyone has a camera phone these days,” Tilley said. “They can now use those phones to take photos of crimes they may see in progress and send to us.”
Whether it's someone believed to be breaking a traffic law or a suspicious vehicle in a neighborhood, residents will be able to take photos and submit them for police to investigate.
“It opens up a whole new avenue to us,” Tilley said. “There are so many advantages, it's unbelievable.”
The third phase, expected to be available sometime mid-to-late September, will be a crime map showing where crimes occur in the city of Clinton.
“It will provide a true crime picture for Clinton,” the police chief stressed.
The crime map will be accessed through the city of Clinton's website and, when up and running, will allow users to view the map and click on icons that denote crimes and the neighborhoods in which they were committed.
With a click of a mouse, citizens can see what the crime was and when it was committed and find a place where, again, they can submit anonymous tips they may have on a specific incident.
“It will give you an up-close look at the things that may or may not be going on in a particular neighborhood,” Tilley said.
The police chief said there were a lot of misconceptions about the amount of crime taking place in the city, and he believes the crime map will help paint an accurate portrait of what goes on and where.
The three-phase Tip411 system is costing the city $3,000 over a two-year period, but the benefits, Tilley said are likely to be three-fold, if not more.
It is, the chief said, a proactive approach to policing he believes is needed in today's society.
“We realize information is key to successful police work, and we are trying to open every avenue possible to obtain that information.
Tilley is hoping initial success might be just around the corner if residents who might have information about the Sessoms and Mike's Hunt Shop break-ins will utilize the new and anonymous texting tool.
“We urge anyone with information to text it to us at 847411. Again, use the key words TIPCPD as the first words of the message and then text the tip. Someone will get back to you,” Tilley said, stressing once again that though police will be able to respond to the text, they will not know who they are responding to.