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OMG! Law Enforcement Turns To SMS To Fight Crime

More and more communities across the U.S. are instituting SMS-based tip lines so citizens can text in messages about crimes. Some police departments hope the idea will catch hold with teens and those in their 20s. I can see the messages flooding in now: Help, bank being robbed! Send cops!
More and more communities across the U.S. are instituting SMS-based tip lines so citizens can text in messages about crimes. Some police departments hope the idea will catch hold with teens and those in their 20s. I can see the messages flooding in now: Help, bank being robbed! Send cops!Before there was 911 for emergencies, there were tip lines. Tip lines have been around for decades. Basically, anyone wanting to contribute some information to a police investigation could call in -- anonymously -- and provide whatever details they had to share. Now that we're approaching 2010, police departments around the U.S. have begun using the technology of the day for the same purpose, to gather information for investigations.

One recent department to do so is in Lousiville, Ky. It introduced its own SMS tip line just last month. "If somebody hears Johnny is going to bring a gun to school, hopefully they'll text that in," said Sgt. Brian Bernardi of the Louisville, Ky., Metro Police Department in an Associated Press article. In case tipsters are concerned that their tips will be tracked back to them, the system in Louisville encrypts cell phone numbers and churns out a random ID number instead of the user's cell number. Other departments that have moved to this type of system include Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco, and Tampa.

Of course, I have to wonder how long it will take police officers to get up to speed on teen SMS shorthand. Sometimes it can be impenetrable. OMG, ur in trble 4 slshng trs.

I also can't wait to see this reflected by Hollywood. How many times have we seen a movie where someone hiding in a closet calls 911 and tries to talk to the operator while trying to avoid an intruder? Using SMS would be a silent way to communicate, but the police departments interviewed by the Associated Press didn't indicate what sort of priority SMS tips are given, nor what happens when they are used for purposes requiring or requesting immediate action.

As Engadget writer Joshua Topolsky so aptly joked: OMG I am being killed!

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Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing