Members of the University of Richmond community can now submit tips about campus crimes anonymously via text message through the police department's new "text-a-tip" program.
The University of Richmond Police Department has partnered with Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers, a local crime-fighting group, to provide the tip-submission program and Richmond's first reward system for tips at no cost to the university.
Any person who submits a tip that leads to an arrest will be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Through the partnership with Crime Stoppers, people can also submit tips anonymously over the phone at (804) 780-1000 and online at www.tipsubmit.com. The online tips can include photos.
Submitting crime tips via text message has been popularized across the country during the past three years. Police have attributed its effectiveness to the guaranteed anonymity - police never see the tipster's name or cell phone number.
The URPD will still use the Silent Witness system, which has been in use for a decade, but the new system provides a more convenient way for people to submit tips, Investigator Tim Mihalcoe said.
"Kids are texting all the time so it's easy for them to do this," he said.
The new program also allows officers to interact with the people who submit tips, which is not possible with Silent Witness, he said.
Under the new program, a person who sends a tip is given an alias and officers can respond to the anonymous person's cell phone with questions about the tip.
Mihalcoe said he hoped the program would lead to more solved crimes on campus.
"If one tip makes an arrest," he said, "it was worth it."
Many crimes are left unsolved because the types of crimes that occur most frequently on campus -- vandalism and larceny -- leave very few clues, Capt. Beth Simonds said.
"Property crime is difficult to solve," she said, "especially without help from the public because there's not always a lot to go on. So we're hoping that this can assist with some of that."
To submit a tip, text information to CRIMES, or the number 274637. Type "URTip" as the first word in the body of the text message, followed by a space (capitalization does not matter).
The tipster will receive a reply message with an alias and information about what he or she can do next. An officer will reply with questions if more information is needed.
Students, staff and faculty members should save the Crime Stoppers number in their cell phones, Mihalcoe said.
Incoming texts are not continuously monitored, Simonds said, so people should call 911 if there is a true emergency.