How it works
Text “gftips r” and your tip to 274637. To test the program, include “test” after “gftips r.”
Steamboat Springs Standing in front of a banner that informed high school students that the policy prohibiting cell phones in class would be enforced, Steamboat Springs School Resource Officer Josh Carrell asked them to take out their phones.
He told them to text “gftips r” plus the word “test” to 274637. The students in Kelly Erickson’s leadership class complied.
“You just texted an anonymous tip hotline,” Carrell told the class. “This is for the entire Routt County community. We want you guys to help us advertise it.”
Carrell explained that Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, which promotes alternatives to substance abuse, would be introducing the anonymous Text-A-Tip software in Routt, Moffat and Grand counties. He said it allows people, not just students, to send an anonymous text that either he or Routt County Communications Center dispatchers would receive.
The sender gets a reply directing the person to call 911 if it is an emergency, or they can communicate with him or a dispatcher via text depending on the situation, Carrell said. He said it could be used to report drug deals and at-risk behaviors including suicide, vandalism, theft, bullying or other things.
Carrell said the program wasn’t designed to catch kids, but help law enforcement solve crimes or dedicate the proper personnel to help people who might need help.
Grand Futures Moffat County Director Matt Beckett, who is working to get Text-A-Tip up and running in the three counties, said the organization looked into the software for the program more than a year ago. He said it originally was intended as a way for youths to report underage substance abuse, but he realized it wouldn’t just be limited to that.
“This just seemed like a great tool for them to take a proactive stance on issues in school or social groups without being labeled, where they can choose to make the right decisions without the criticism that follows a lot of the time,” Beckett said.
He said Grand Futures got grant funding to pay for the $1,500 annual cost of the TipSoft software. He said subscribers use the same 274637 number, and the code “gftips r” indicates that texts are coming from Routt County. He said the texts are routed through Canada to help ensure that they remain anonymous.
Carrell said the program was advantageous because texting has become such a common form of communication and most people have cell phones.
“I think sometimes people want to tell things but don’t know who to go to,” said senior Nicolas Hessenberger, a student in Erickson’s leadership class. “I feel like this would be a real good way. Being anonymous and texting is a lot easier than calling the cops.”
Senior Michael Savory, another leadership class student, thought Text-A-Tip could work, but wasn’t convinced.
“I think it’s good, but people will struggle with the idea that it’s anonymous,” he said. “I think if they use it and see the results, it could be more used.”
Carrell said there could be times when he or dispatch could ask for the names of people they’re reporting and it would be up to the sender to provide them. The students acknowledged that in a small town, that could be an issue. But Carrell urged them to spread the word about Text-A-Tip to their friends, parents, siblings and co-workers.
Beckett said Grand Futures had about $3,000 to advertise the program in the county, at schools and in places where youths hang out. Carrell said he and Grand Futures are organizing presentations for the other schools in the county.
Assistant Principal Marty Lamansky seemed encouraged by the program.
“I think anything we can do to give an avenue where people feel safe reporting something that is potentially dangerous is something worth investigating and using,” he said.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com