Crime Stoppers goes high tech

This isn't your dad's Crime Stoppers.

Instead, it’s a method of catching criminal suspects that uses today’s technology text messages, smartphone apps and websites.

The Valley Area Crime Stoppers revealed Wednesday its foray into a brave new crime fighting world. The local Crime Stoppers is now a member of TipSoft, which enables tipsters to not only get anonymous messages to law enforcement, but also send pictures and video.

Jason Gamache, who spoke to members of law enforcement at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, has served on the Crime Stoppers board for almost a decade.

“For nine years, very little has changed,” Gamache said. “The one thing that has changed in all of our lives is technology.”

Tipsters have three new ways of getting their information to Crime Stoppers.

First, they can send a text message to 274637 and include the acronym “VACS” in the body of the message. They’ll get a response within seconds.

The messages are encrypted, meaning the tipster keeps his or her anonymity. Pictures and videos also can be sent with a text message, and Crime Stoppers will send the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

The second new way people can contact Crime Stoppers is by installing TipSubmit, a free smartphone app, on their cell phone. Users set up their own password and submit information through the app. The app gives users different text areas to type what kind of offense they witnessed, information about the suspects and any vehicles involved in the crime.

People can find the app by visiting the third new way of giving a tip: isolvecrime.com a website dedicated to the local Crime Stoppers. Tipsters fill out a form, similar to the form on the app, and send it to Crime Stoppers.

Tipsters stay anonymous regardless of how they send the information. They also can track their cases and know when they’ll get a reward, Gamache said.

"A lot of people are very intimidated to call and speak to someone,” Gamache said. “This makes it a lot easier.”

People can still call Crime Stoppers with their anonymous tips at 706-653-3188.