Students Can Send Text Message Tips To Cops

Rosalind Rossi and Frank Main
Chicago Sun Times
September 10, 2008

Students who see a gun or overhear plans about an after-school fight can now tip off authorities the 21st century way — by anonymously text-messaging police — under a program announced Monday involving 10 Chicago public high schools.

Crime Stoppers of Cook County is even offering rewards to tipsters whose information produces arrests. For murder cases, that can involve up to $1,000.

“Practically every student these days has a cell phone. Students are texting each other messages faster than they can dial a number,” Police Supt. Jody Weis said in announcing the pilot program with Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan.

“We want them to text a tip to the police — a tip that could potentially save their life or someone else’s.”

All text messages must begin with the letters “cpd” and can include common text abbreviations.

In launching the program, Chicago joins a growing list of cities that have turned to text messaging to tap into a popular way for youth — and others — to communicate. While other cities are taking tips-by-text citywide, Chicago is starting out small, with a pilot program in 10 CPS schools.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Carlos Magdaleno, 16, a member of the Mikva Youth Safety Council who is a junior at Gage Park High School.

“Nine out of 10 kids at Gage Park have cell phones. . . . They would do this for their own safety,” he said.

Joining Gage Park in the pilot program are Dyett, Douglass, Harper, Sullivan, Crane, Phillips, Richards, Hirsch and Fenger high schools.

Text tips will be routed to Canada, encrypted and forwarded to CPD without a phone number, said Paul Rutherford, of Crime Stoppers of Cook County. Tipsters will receive a code number and can call (800) 535-STOP to see if their tip resulted in an arrest.

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