PEI

P.E.I. Crime Stoppers looking for more text, online tips

P.E.I. Crime Stoppers is hoping more people will start submitting their tips online or through its text message service.

Only about 10% of tips come through the phone lines now

Crime Stoppers has been receiving tips via text and through online submissions for several years now. (Malcolm Campbell/CBC)

P.E.I. Crime Stoppers is hoping more people will start submitting their tips online or through its text message service.

That's because tipsters submitting by phone are harder to follow up with if more information is needed.

Scott Lundrigan, the provincial coordinator for the P.E.I. chapter, says if people submit via text or online, he can contact them — all while protecting their identity. 

"The advantage to the software for the web and for the text messaging is that I can actually respond to their text message or their web message and send them a message," he said.

"I still don't know who I'm talking to, but ... I can actually carry on a dialogue with these people who are calling in tips."

Changing trends

Lundrigan said only about 10 per cent of tips come through the phone lines these days, with the remaining 90 per cent split between online and text, and that changing trend makes his work a little easier.

He said the problem with phone tips is if someone leaves a message that is missing key pieces of information it is difficult to get in touch with them.

Scott Lundrigan, provincial coordinator for PEI Crime stoppers, says people shouldn't use the text or online services for emergencies even if they are the quickest way to submit tips. (Malcolm Campbell/CBC)

And because he is working through all the tips on his own he can only devote a few hours, once a week to being available for follow up calls.

"The problem with that is, if they don't think to call and there's something missing in the information they're providing then we have a problem giving good information to the police," he said.

Speedy service

Lundrigan said phone tips go through an operator and are then forwarded to him, but text and online submissions come directly to his phone so giving information those ways is also faster.

"For our purposes it's more powerful because it is quicker, it enables us to respond a little quicker to something that is semi-urgent," he said.

It's particularly important in small communities. I grew up in rural Canada, this is rural Canada in P.E.I. Everybody knows everybody and knows everybody's business and the old joke about 'Who's your father?'— Scott Lundrigan

Though Lundrigan does caution that the service should never be used in emergency situations, partly because he alone monitors the tips coming in.

"If it's an emergency please dial 9-1-1. Yes we try to be current, and if you send us a text it's probably the quickest way to get information to us and potentially to the police ... but it's not monitored 24 hours a day," he said. 

"So if I don't happen to be awake when that text message comes in, that tip on something that might be a public safety issue, then it could be a problem for someone."

Anonymity intact

Lundrigan said protecting tipsters identities is still the cornerstone of the organization's service, and it's essential in places like P.E.I.

"It's particularly important in small communities. I grew up in rural Canada, this is rural Canada in P.E.I. Everybody knows everybody and knows everybody's business and the old joke about 'Who's your father?'" he said.

Lundrigan says only about 10 per cent of tips come in to Crime Stoppers through the phone in tip line. (Malcolm Campbell/CBC)

"People don't want to talk about the people in the neighbourhood who either are a problem for them being criminals, dealing with drug issues, and in particular chronic impaired drivers."

He said people are familiar with 1-800-222-TIPS as a way of calling in but he thinks if more people were aware of the text and online services they'd be using them more often.

"If people learned about the text more, we'd see more text messages coming in. And again in both instances we have no idea who we're talking to and where the information is coming from, it's just the added convenience," he said.

"Not just convenience but critical importance, that if something is missing in that information, I can send a text back and say 'did you mean to say this? Or did you forget the colour of that vehicle?'"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Malcolm is from Toronto and moved to the Island in December of 2016.

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