Texting Crime Stoppers offers teens, adults tip option
By Lisa Treiber-Walter —
Students are taught from an early age: “Don’t be a tattletale.” Unless, of course, what they know can prevent the harm of another.
Now, Gillespie County’s pre-teens and teenagers are being urged to “tell all” to the confidential ear of Crime Stoppers — by phone, by Internet or now by text.
“They need to look at it like this: ‘If I do this, then I may save a life’,” said Troy Ottmers, chairman of Gillespie County Crime Stoppers.
Students and adults alike are being urged to use whatever method they prefer to share what they know so they can curb crime — crime that can sometimes end in death.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, you have to have a tragedy to bring things about,” said Crime Stoppers vice chairman Tony Klein, referring to the April 20 overdose death of 16-year-old Fredericksburg High School sophomore Samuel (Sammy) Herrera after he and a fellow student nasally ingested a designer hallucinogenic drug named 25c-NBOMe purchased by another student over the Internet.
“We’re trying hard to get in touch with the kids at school,” Klein said.
“It’s not like what we’re doing now is coming out of the blue …. That’s not the case. What we’re trying to do is refocus, maybe, on schools and on the drugs in light of what’s happened,” Ottmers added.
Klein and Ottmers joined in a meeting last week with Pari Whitten and Marc Williamson, superintendents of Harper and Fredericksburg Independent School Districts, respectively, as well as Fredericksburg Police Chief Steve Wetz, Gillespie County Sheriff Buddy Mills and Crime Stoppers police liaison Joe Folse to discuss fighting drugs amid the local teenage population.
“The people who are in charge and who know things know that we’ve had problems for years,” Ottmers said, adding he doesn’t feel that the situation is any worse today than it was five years ago, except that, perhaps the public’s perception is more heightened due to the recent deaths of Herrera and Harper High School graduate Joshua Wade Harper, 20, on May 8.
Crime Stoppers had already refocused its efforts among students a year and a half ago, Folse said, adding that last year a flyer about the program went out to every kid in the Harper and Fredericksburg districts.
In addition, students were given reminders of the three different ways to submit anonymous tips on a business card format with the hopes that they would be more apt to hang onto the wallet-sized documents.
“We finally realized that texting is the big thing,” Klein said.
“So, what we did was, we got a text package added” to the Crime Stoppers’ software, Folse said.
Late Fredericksburg Police Department Chief Paul Oestreich was the person who championed that move.
“Cost was an issue and Paul, at that time, took out of his department’s budget the cost to add the texting option to the software. He got it initiated and put in place last fall,” Ottmers said.
All someone has to do now is text to number “274637” a message that reads “TIP 830” and their information.
After that, the text is received by TipSoft’s server in Canada. “It immediately goes to a cloaking server that receives that tip, it encrypts that number and it wipes off either the telephone number and/or the email address,” Folse said.
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