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Tip411 brings new features, potential

Denton Police Chief Lee Howell recently announced a new way for residents to report a crime, and we think the timing is perfect.

Tip411 allows anyone with a cellphone to send an anonymous tip to Denton police by texting “DentonPD” and the tip information to 847411. The feature even allows people with information about crimes to have a two-way chat with police.

The service, which is reserved exclusively for public safety purposes, is powered by CitizenObserver, a St. Paul, Minn., company that currently has 55 local, state and federal agencies in Texas using the system.

Howell’s announcement came after word that the police department was launching an effort to help the community have a crime-free holiday season, and we believe Tip411 should help with that effort.

After all, most holiday shoppers probably keep a cellphone handy, which will give the police a valuable weapon in stores and shopping centers and parking areas throughout the city.

The department already does a good job of interacting with the public via its website, Facebook and Twitter, but Tip411 brings some new features with greater potential, Howell told us. The ability to receive real-time anonymous texts or e-mails and be able to have an interactive dialogue through those provides a great advantage.

How successful is the system? Tip411 is used by more than 1,200 communities in 45 states, and Terry Halsch, a spokesman for CitizenObserver, said the company factors success by renewal rate, and the renewal rate currently stands at 90 percent. An agency in Collin County has reported several arrests using the system, Halsch told us.

Time will tell how much the new service helps local police, but we believe it has great potential. As Chief Howell put it, when you consider that somewhere out there, someone holds the key information that could solve virtually any crime in Denton, all the police need is for residents to connect with them.

One reason that we like the new system is because the identity of the person texting police is protected. All tips are anonymous, according to CitizenObserver. The technology removes all identifying information before the police department sees the message, so there’s no way to identify the sender.

Anonymous Web tips can also be submitted right from the police department website at or from its Facebook page listed under City of Denton Police Department. Residents can also sign up for text and e-mail alerts.

In addition to keeping a cellphone handy, there are other things that shoppers should remember:

* Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.

* Park in a well-lighted space, and be sure to close the windows and lock the car.

* Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.

* Don’t overburden yourself with packages, and be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Do not leave a purse unattended in a shopping cart.

* Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.

After all, shoppers aren’t the only ones who are looking for bargains — don’t help criminals fill their gift lists.