BPD puts social network on the job

Published 3:23 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

Already outfitted with new technology in patrol cars and on the streets, the Brewton Police Department is reaching out to residents in a way that has become familiar to many: Facebook.
The department has a new Facebook page to update residents on crime reports and offer tips for crime prevention.
“This page is updated on a regular basis and it is monitored very closely,” Officer Travis Minchew said. “There are a lot of stories that are posted on the Facebook page that aren’t sent out as a press releases, simply because some things aren’t worthy of an official release.”
Chief Monte McGougin said the Facebook page will allow the department to communicate quickly to residents — and to receive information as well.
“We wanted to have a powerful tool for the public to be able to submit an anonymous tip to the police department and reach out to the citizens of Brewton through a social network,” McGougin said.
The Facebook page gives the department a powerful public relations tool, McGougin said.
In addition, the department is using a program through Facebook that will allow residents to submit crime tips via anonymous text messaging. Police still want the public to submit crime reports through traditional means, but anonymous tips can now also be submitted through the Facebook page.
The Brewton Police Department has partnered with CrimeReports, a company that specializes in law enforcement tip management software and web applications, on the service.
“An individual, with helpful information concerning a crime, can inform the Brewton Police Department, and there is no way that we nor can anyone else know the identity of the individual submitting the tip,” Minchew said. “The popularity of text messaging has created a significant opportunity for the public to help law enforcement agencies fight crime.”
Even though Facebook users are sending the information, their identities can remain secret.
“The service was built specifically to allow informants to remain anonymous by encrypting the messages and routing them through several secure servers, protecting the personal details of the informant,” Minchew said. “There is no doubt that this program will dramatically increase our crime solving capabilities. Using TipSoft from CrimeReports, information may be anonymously received and securely replied to with complete confidence.”
Here’s how the program works: A user’s information is given an alias and a unique ID before the user sends it. The TipSoft application allows the user and investigator to have a two-way dialogue, while continuing to keep the user’s identity secret if they choose.
Brewton Police Department encourages everyone to report information about any non-urgent illegal activity, such as unsolved cases, vandalism, theft, the sale and distribution of drugs or information about crimes being planned in the community or schools.
To send a tip to Brewton Police Department through this new program, visit the Brewton Police Departmentís Facebook page and click on “submit a tip.”
In addition to using the Facebook page as a way to receive tips and give crime reports, McGougin said the police department will also be using the page to publish its “most wanted” — photos of those who have warrants on them or those who owe fines to the department.
McGougin said he hopes that publicity will also be a deterrent to those who have not paid their fines.

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