Anonymous messaging service is helping police fight crime

The Text-A-Tips increased 59% from the previous year


CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Sheriff Michael Ashe has released the annual statistics for the Sheriff’s Department’s outreach programs to assist community law enforcement.

During the past fiscal year, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department processed 574 Text-A-Tips from the public. The Sheriff’s Department says the tips ranged from quality of life issues to detailed information and specific identification of homicide suspects.

The Text-A-Tips increased 59% from the previous year. It enables people to send messages via their cellphone to law enforcement. Law enforcement can’t trace the message to the sender, and the people sending the tips are assured of remaining anonymous, said the Sheriff’s Department.

Ed Caisse from the Sheriff’s Department told 22News, “When a violent crime happens, like a shooting, a lot of people see it, but don’t want to get involved, because they’re afraid somebody is going to retaliate against them.  That’s the reason Text-a-Tip was actually created.”

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department also uses a program called MIDNet that is an inmate sharing network statewide. This program allows police departments and other criminal justice agencies to access inmate information that was previously taken when the inmate was at another correctional facility or an incarceration facility, said the Sheriff’s Department.

The information on this network includes characteristics such as tattoos, nicknames, and gang affiliations. Last year, there was 6,498 MIDNet searched conducted by various agencies, including the Springfield Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police Fugitive squad, the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, and others, said the Sheriff’s Department.

15 Sheriff’s Department staff are also serving as Neighborhood Watch coordinators in Springfield and Holyoke, in addition to their regular duties.