The Hoboken Police Department has launched a new system for gathering anonymous tips that has already contributed to at least one investigation, a representative for the department said.
The system, called TipSoft, uses a mobile application available for Android and iOS systems that simplifies the process of tipping off the police to a crime in progress, or helping an investigation of a crime that has already occurred.
“We’re always looking for new ways to make people feel more comfortable reporting a crime or helping us with an investigation,” said Det. Alex Gonzalez, the officer charged with heading the program. “We really think that this is going to open the floodgates on anonymous tips.”
Hoboken residents can already submit anonymous tips to the department simply by calling in or visiting www.hobokenpd.com/tips, but Gonzalez said that he hopes TipSoft will allow for more engagement from young people and even children.
“If a kid in school knows there’s going to be a fight at 3 o’clock, he can tell us that without anyone having to know that he told us,” said Gonzalez.
The system could also contribute to more high-profile investigations, such as in the Detective Bureau or Anti-Vice Unit, said Gonzalez.
“We really think that this is going to open the floodgates on anonymous tips.” – Det. Alex Gonzalez
900 law enforcement agencies nationwide have signed up to use TipSoft, including the Hudson County Sheriff and the Bayonne Police Department.
How to use it
There are two ways that Hoboken residents can use the TipSoft program. First, they can download the program’s mobile app, TipSubmit, and select the Hoboken Police Department as their default agency. From there, users can fill in the crime’s location, describe the victim and the suspect, and communicate with officers en route to the scene. You can even snap a photo and attach it to your tip.
The second option for submitting a tip is simpler, said Gonzalez, and is better suited for time-sensitive tips. Residents can simply send a normal text message to CRIMES (274637) and include the keyword “hobokenpd” in the text. The message will automatically register as a TipSoft tip meant for the Hoboken police. In this situation as well, officers can keep an open line of communication with the tipper.
All the while, tips that arrive in the department’s Communications Department for processing will only include an identification number for the tip, not the tipper’s cell phone number or name.
“We’re never going to know who gave us these tips, but those numbers will help us create a database of tips that we can use in a variety of ways,” said Gonzalez.
When asked if the department was concerned about people using the program to prank their neighbors, or worse, cause harm to someone by anonymously accusing someone of a crime out of spite, Gonzalez said that there were safeguards in place against such activity.
“We have a way of getting rid of tips that we know are pranks, and there’s a way to filter out what we might consider spam as well,” he said. “It’s essentially the same as a prank phone call. We have to check out the tip.”
Will it help?
According to a press release from the city announcing the program’s unveiling, TipSoft has led to more than two million tips, resulting in 145,000 arrests (including the apprehension of 55,000 fugitives) and more than $5.3 billion recovered in drugs and property. This included 11,000 vehicles and 22,000 weapons.
In Hoboken, only one tip has been submitted thus far, but the department is planning an aggressive awareness campaign, including possibly posting information on the program in schools, apartment buildings and community hubs around town.
“We think that once we get the word out about this it’s really going to help us increase our own productivity and make everyone safer,” said Gonzalez. “We’re going to follow up on every tip.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org