Reporting crimes anonymously to local law enforcement on the spot is a little easier than it used to be. The Franklin County Crime Stoppers organization acquired a new software program so the public can anonymously submit crime-related tips through the web on any Android or iPhone device.

The software, TipSoft, enables users who download the app to have an anonymous two-way conversation with a Crime Stoppers representative to report a crime and be eligible for a reward. Rewards can range from $20 to $1,000, depending on the level of the crime and significance of the tip.

Though users long have been able to call the tips hotline, (888) 311-TIPS, and anonymously talk to an officer, the expanded capability enables tipsters to report without talking to someone. The start-up effort, which went live in December 2012, was funded by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office ($400 set-up and $1,200 annually). Donations and fundraisers are expected to pay future costs.

The organization’s Facebook page, Franklin County Crime Stoppers, is another tool to submit a tip. Texting also works with this software. Tipsters can submit tips by texting the word “Crimes” (274637) with the Agency keyword “Franklin,” then be given an alias code to text the crime tip. The software not only allows tips via text, but users can submit videos and photos via the service too.

Tipsters clearly appreciate the technology and are using it to report an increasing number of non-urgent crimes, according to Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Tammy Alexander, which leads to more arrests and conviction, as well as more crime prevention. Besides reporting on unsolved cases and non-urgent illegal activities, the service works equally well to report planned crimes at schools or around the community.

This program isn’t intended to report emergency crimes in need of immediate assistance though. Those need to be called in to the county’s 911 dispatch service.

A proactive effort such as this one can play an important role in helping make the county safer by helping to prevent, reduce and solve crimes while also making tipsters more comfortable assisting law enforcement officers’ efforts.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher