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Reporting a crime: there's an app for that

WORTHINGTON -- The Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force has released a new smartphone app that allows the public to send anonymous tips and photos to the Task Force.

The app also allows agents to respond to tips, creating an instant and anonymous "chat" with citizens who may have useful information. According to BRDTF Commander Troy Appel, the app will serve as an additional tool for the task force to receive tips from the public.

It also should help create safer communities and appeal especially to the younger and tech-savvy demographic, Appel added.

"A lot of what we do depends on information from the public, and this was created as an easy way for the public to provide us with information without the risk of having their name attached to it," he said.

Developed by St. Paul-based company CitizenObserver, the app removes all identifying information before the task force sees it.

The app will act as a supplement to the BRDTF's existing anonymous texting program, tip411, which it has had since 2009.

"We've had the texting for a couple years now, and this is an expansion of that to go along with the smartphone technology," Appel explained.

The tip texting program has been beneficial for the task force, and Appel said it receives tips on many of the cases it investigates.

"Right now, it's fairly consistent with cases as they develop -- we usually receive at least a tip or two with each case," Appel said.

Even seemingly small pieces of information can be helpful for the task force during an investigation.

"It might be a small piece that on its own doesn't mean much, but if it's a complicated investigation, sometimes that small piece can lead us to the next level," Appel said.

The chat feature of the app is also beneficial to the BRDTF, as it can instantly ask for clarifications or additional information from citizens who submit a tip.

"The technology allows a task agent to engage in a real-time, two-way chat with people," Appel said. "When we receive a message, the agent can text back with a question."

While the app is aimed to assist with drug-related investigations, it can also be used to provide information on any criminal activity.

"Obviously, its primary use is to aid in drug crime, but we will welcome any tips regarding criminal activity and refer the tips on to other officials," Appel said. "It's one more thing that can help reduce crime in neighborhoods and empower the public to get involved."

While the tip application will act as another method to connect citizens with police agencies, it is not intended as a substitute for 911. If citizens need a squad car or other emergency personnel, they should continue to call 911.

The BRDTF Tips app can be downloaded online at Google Play or at the Apple App Store, and found by searching BRDTF Tips.

Anonymous tips can also be sent to the task force by texting 372DTF and the tip to 847411. Citizens can also call in tips on the Crime Anonymous line at 376-8477.

For questions regarding the new BRDTF Tips app, contact the task force at 295-5400.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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