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Farmington police: Text police a tip, keep your privacy

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news Farmington, 55024

Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

Sometimes, people see something they know they should report to the police, but they just don’t want to get involved. Now, thanks to a new program being launched by the Farmington Police Department, they can report those tips, but still remain anonymous.

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FPD recently signed on to a new program called Tip411 that enables residents to send an anonymous tip to police. It is something FPD administrative sergeant Jim Constantineau hopes will encourage residents to start sending in more information.

Tipsters can submit information by texting 847411 — or, TIP411 — on their cell phone. In the subject line, they should text “Farmpd” to identify the department they are trying to reach.

The text goes directly to Farmington police sergeants, but the sergeants do not receive the tipster’s name or telephone number.

Each person making contact gets assigned a random serial number. That way, Constantineau said, the person making the tip cannot be identified by police and therefore, cannot be subpoenaed as a witness in a court case.

“(Tip411 has) been subpoenaed before and they don’t have anything to provide,” Constantineau said. “It’s completely anonymous, even to us.”

The sergeants can respond to the initial tip only by texting back. The thread does not trace back to the phone or device that initiated the conversation, but the officer and the person who is making the report can have a text conversation on an uninterrupted thread.

The program is in its early stages, Constantineau said. Right now, residents can text tips in, but apps are coming for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

Police hope providing anonymity will encourage residents to report tips when they know they have seen something criminal in their neighborhoods, or if they see a photo of an unidentified suspect and they know who the individual is.

Tip411 also includes technology for police to set up alert groups that residents can join. The alert groups might cover a neighborhood, a community, or even the county. Residents who sign up for the alert groups will get text messages anytime something of significance happens in the coverage area.

For as much as Tip411 can help officers solve crimes after the fact, it is not designed to replace a 911 call for an incident in progress, Constantineau said.

“If you are seeing something in progress, call 911 right away. Tips are great, but we might be right around the corner and can get there while it is still happening,” he said. “This does not take the place of a telephone call on the in-progress calls.”

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