Wednesday Apr 18 2012
Text tipsters could help Rocklin Police
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
As Rocklin Police gets wired with new technologies and social media applications, investigators will obtain actionable tips and citizens will become empowered. “We can set up a two-way conversation with the tipster and they can remain anonymous,” Rocklin Deputy Chief Dan Ruden said. In December Rocklin Police launched its text tips program that allows anyone with a cell phone to submit a crime tip via text messaging. So far, police have received 34 tips that have helped investigators identify everything from alleged drug dealers and DUI drivers to abandoned vehicles and leads for cold cases. “We got a good tip on a teenager that was walking around with a gun,” Ruden said. “The investigators executed a search warrant and took care of a potentially very dangerous problem that came in via text.” Rocklin Police is developing a new iPhone App, which is now available in the Apple Store. It will allow users to send a cell phone picture along with the text tip. Ruden stresses that crimes in progress should be called into 9-1-1 dispatch as the text tips are reviewed daily. For the first time ever, Rocklin Police last year received more calls to 9-1-1 from cell phones than land lines. According to police reports, there were 4,052 calls to 9-1-1 from a land line and 6,974 cell phone calls. That increase has forced Rocklin Police to develop a cell phone registry for Reverse 9-1-1 calls for emergencies in progress. “If we want an alert to go out on a particular city block, if you’ve registered with reverse 9-1-1 with your cell phone and you don’t have a home phone then you will receive the call,” Ruden said. Last month Rocklin Police launched a website it calls Citizens RIMS. Funded with Homeland Security grant money, the site allows residents to track crime in their Rocklin neighborhood in near-real time. Citizens RIMS can be accessed at http://rpd.crimegraphics.com. However, crimes involving juveniles, alleged sex crimes and other sensitive data will not be shown, according to police. Rocklin resident Ben Ford logged in to the site and was surprised to see a burglary in his Cresleigh Springs neighborhood. “One burglary in our area in the past seven days,” Ford announced on Facebook. “Nice to see how much data they are collecting.” Ford is one of 215 people now using the site, according to police. The department also uses its own website as well an RPD Facebook page and Twitter account. They also use, what they call, Citizen Observer to e-mail neighborhood alerts and press releases to citizens signed up. RPD Neighborhood Watch coordinator Mike Nottoli said the exposure is helping. “(It) has been well-received. I routinely receive comments from our Neighborhood Watch members about how much they appreciate these new programs,” Nottoli said. Last month Rocklin Police Chief Ron Lawrence told City Council members the increase in high tech crime reporting is a philosophical change for the department. “I believe in the past we have not done as good a job of keeping our citizens informed of crime that’s occurring in our city,” Lawrence said at the March 27 meeting. “We’ve had a false sense of security.” City Council members expressed concern the increased crime reporting could hurt business by making Rocklin look like it has a crime problem. “Could there tend to be unintended consequences from that or create more of a perception we have lot of crime because we’re getting all these notices,” council member Scott Yuill asked. Lawrence responded that it’s not about striking fear in citizens, but more about keeping them vigilant to protect themselves. Perception may be reality, however. Rocklin Police reported a six percent increase in crime from this time last year with commercial burglaries on the increase. “Rocklin has the lowest crime rate in the entire region, but crime still occurs now and then,” Ruden said. “We want people to have the information to protect themselves.” Even so, the city recently removed mug shots of alleged criminals from its main website. “We decided, you know, the city promotes other things on that home page. People looking for crime information are headed to our police page so let’s start there. We don’t want these ugly mugs on the city’s page because it is not as relevant there,” Ruden said. “We’re making adjustments.” To get more information on the new tools or chat with Chief Lawrence, attend one of his upcoming “Chats with the Chief.” The identical events will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 3 at Whitney High School on Wildcat Boulevard or at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 21 at Rocklin High School on Victory Lane. Reservations are requested; call 625-5416.