Text-To-NarcLaw enforcement agencies should do everything they can to entice the average citizen’s cooperation in fighting crime. In this respect, they’re following the lead of savvy marketers – by using proactive SMS campaigns.

A recent story from the San Jose Mercury News shows that text-messaging is so ubiquitous, so natural of an activity, that it can be applied to serious situations as well as more frivolous ones. The newspaper reports a new trend among law enforcement and legal vigilantes: Using SMS to report crime tips.

Already, more than 30 U.S. metropolitan areas are using, or will soon use, tip-texting, according to Kevin Anderson, whose company makes the TipSoft SMS software behind these anti-crime programs. Officials especially hope to court teens and young adults who witness or have information about illegal activity.

What caught my eye wasn’t just that this is yet another new use of SMS. It’s that it uses techniques that are proven in the marketing space: The system seems to take consumer/citizen privacy seriously, and also has measures in place to ”target” incoming information correctly.

Here’s how it works:

  • Tips are sent to the shortcode ”274637” – which spells out CRIMES and thus is easy to remember.
  • When sending information, the tipster must include the keyword pertinent to his or her town; for example, ”TIP486” applies to Seattle. This way, tips are routed to the proper Crime Stoppers group or law agency. Indeed, officials plan a variety of marketing campaigns, including billboards, to make sure denizens know their city’s keyword. (You can find your own town’s keyword at www.smscrimetips.com
  • To protect tipsters, the software uses an encryption system, identification aliases, and a secure server in Canada to ensure anonymity.

Sure, privacy worries still abound. As do concerns about false tips being used unfairly.

But it’s interesting to see that the police are learning from marketers, of all spaces. In turn, I can see how the principals of this type of SMS program might be applied right back to marketing:

Imagine contests where consumers can ”tip” a company about their goods or services being used, in return for even more free goods and services. Or else a company can elicit ”tips” about poor performance by its employees – and such data can easily be sorted to see if certain branches consistently operate below par.

Who’d have thought that with SMS, marketers and law enforcement could be so simpatico?

Eydie Cubarrubia
Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
“I’d rather you text me”


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