Monday, July 7, 2008

Anonymous Texts Helping To Fight Crime

I've often written about how text messaging or SMS can be utilized for human rights, as it has been in projects like Ushahidi in Kenya and Sokwanele and Kubatana in Zimbabwe. Apparently, a trend in using SMS to fight crime has been emerging right here in the United States.

Just over a year ago Boston became the first city in the nation to allow citizens to send in tips to its anonymous hotline, Crime Stoppers, via text messaging.

More cities are starting to implement similar systems, according to the Associate Press which reports that Tampa, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Detroit have all jumped on the bandwagon.

The texts are virtually impossible to track since they pass through a server that encrypts cell phone numbers before they get to police. This, along with the ease and popularity of sending text messages, makes it an ideal way for police to receive tips, especially with younger citizens who rely on texting just as much as they do speaking to communicate.

With successful human rights campaigns using SMS internationally, it only seems logical that a system like this could be used to report crime on a national level.

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