June 7, 2008

Boston Police: Snitch On Someone With Our "Text-a-Tip” Program


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BOSTON POLICE TO RECEIVE THE WIRELESS FOUNDATION HONOR FOR INNOVATIVE USE OF MOBILE TECHNOLOGY IN COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

VITA Awards Recognize City Program that Uses Mobile Text Messaging to Assist Police Investigations, Protect Community

BOSTON – June 03, 2008 – In recognition of the Boston Police Department’s CrimeStoppers Mobile Program, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis received The Wireless Foundation's VITA™ Wireless Samaritan Award at the 14th annual Achievement Awards Dinner held on Monday, June 2, at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

The Boston Police Department (BPD) received the VITA Award recognition for its “Text-a-Tip” program, the first system in the United States to provide a text messaging-based method for citizens to deliver anonymous tips to law enforcement agencies. Designed by mobile marketing firm Hill Holliday and powered by VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN) Messaging and Mobile Media Division, the leading provider of digital infrastructure for the networked world, Text-a-Tip was created to take advantage of texting’s privacy and its familiarity to many youths, who may be less inclined to pick up the phone and call police.

Launched by the BPD’s CrimeStoppers Mobile Program in June 2007, Text-a-Tip was designed to increase cooperation with the community and combat a ‘stop snitching’ culture that has permeated through major cities across the country. Since its inception, the program has inspired 678 text tips. The mobile messaging system has provided crucial information in several homicide cases that have led to critical investigative leads. In addition, the program has helped increase the number of contacts received by the telephone hotline to 727 calls since June.

“One of the most significant ways that wireless technology has changed the landscape of American communities is to help make us all safer,” said David Diggs, executive director of The Wireless Foundation. “Since 1993, our VITA program has recognized the remarkable stories of wireless samaritans who have used the technology to stop crime and save lives in emergencies. The Boston Police Department’s Crime Stopper’s Program is a marvelous illustration of the best-case scenario for the crucial role individuals and wireless phones can play in emergency situations and public safety.”

Since the BPD launched Text-a-Tip, text tipsters engage more deeply with the CrimeStoppers Unit via one-to-one SMS chat, some participating in text conversations as long as 45-60 minutes. The unit has improved the efficiency and immediacy of dispatching information. Operators can engage with Boston Police investigators or other law enforcement agencies via phone and communicate the tip information to officers or detectives in real time for action.

“This innovative initiative has performed far beyond our expectations. The response has been remarkable and has significantly influenced revitalization in the level of cooperation between the community and police”, said Commissioner Davis. “Tips received have led to drug, gang and violent crime arrests. This program was made possible by the generosity, creativity and technology made available to us by Hill Holliday and VeriSign.”

“Text messaging is deeply embedded into youth culture and many young people prefer texting to talking. Adding text functionality to the CrimeStoppers program was crucial to reaching young people, who are often most likely to have the information Boston Police need," said Thi Linh Wernau, vice president, Digital, Hill Holliday. "We are proud to have partnered with the Boston Police Department and the City of Boston on the creation of the Text-a-Tip program and the ad campaign to drive users to the line. We are also pleased the success of the program has inspired similar initiatives from law enforcement agencies and schools across the nation."

VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media manages the Boston CrimeStoppers text messaging platform’s easy-to-use user interface, which allows citizens to access the system by simply texting ‘tip’ to short messaging system (SMS) code CRIME (27463). When a text tip is sent, it goes to the phone carrier where normal text charges are applied. The VeriSign system then masks all personal identifiable information, including mobile phone number, before sending any text messaged information to the police department with an assigned six-digit code. Wireless customers can then engage police in a two-way dialog while maintaining their anonymity.

"Ensuring the delivery of mobile messaging is a vital component in enabling a secure and trusted network of communications for users. The Boston Police Department has done a masterful job of leveraging this form of communication to benefit its residents," said Mike Campbell, senior vice president of corporate marketing, VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media. “It is particularly gratifying when our mobile delivery services are used to enable a program that makes people safer, and we congratulate Commissioner Davis and the Boston Police Department for this award recognition and their great service to the community.”

Presented annually, the VITA Wireless Samaritan Awards honor individuals across the United States who have used wireless technology to save lives, stop crime and help in other emergency situations. The achievement awards dinner brings together government and wireless industry leaders to recognize the crucial role that wireless technology plays in keeping citizens safe.

A panel of representatives from the law enforcement and emergency response services industry including National Association of State 9-1-1 Administrators (NASNA), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the Fairfax County Police Department participated on the panel that reviewed and judged all 2007-2008 VITA award nominations. The panel selected honorees that used wireless technology and took additional action to provide assistance in an emergency situation. Winners exemplify how the use of wireless technology can play a crucial role in public safety.

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