36. Fighting crime, one text message at a time.

Forget police cars! Police departments are jumping on the sweet ride that is the mobile bandwagon to fight crime, one text message at a time.

The Medford Oregon Police Department recently launched a new system that allows people to send tips to report criminal or gang activity anonymously via text message. While the anonymous texting report system was first employed in Boston and Cincinnati in 2007, The Medford Oregon Police Department is the first in the Southern Oregon area to put it to use.

Here’s how it works. Community members with smartphones can use an app called TipSoft to make their report. Non-smartphone users can simply text their tip to different numbers, depending on the type of criminal activity.

If it’s a life or death situation, 9-1-1 is of course the way to go; however, people with any non-emergency information about criminal activity are urged to send an anonymous text.

Switching from anonymous hotlines to anonymous text messaging says a few things about how our society is becoming more and more comfortable with their mobile devices. Personally, I love to text. I can plan out what I want to say. It’s fast, easy and a bit impersonal compared to a phone call. Fortunately, I’ve never had to report a crime; however, I imagine it isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. People want to remain anonymous for a reason, especially if their tip includes information about someone they may be close to. With texting, you don’t even have to physically speak to a police officer. That’s extremely convenient when you want to remain anonymous.

With the increase of gang activity in Southern Oregon, police might be hoping this new texting service will work as a way to connect with the younger community members who possibly know more about the activity taking place. A study has shown that “young adults aged 18 to 24 prefer text messages” to personal phone calls. By providing this service, the police seem to really be considering the convenience of members of the community.

I think police are also trying to create a closer and more personal connection with the community. Remember, there is nothing new in digital. Mobile devices are just a new way to communicate and connect with other people. As new technology emerges, we’re finding new ways to shorten the communication distance between us. Police are using the speed and secrecy to communicate that text messaging has provided us with.

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