NCIS unveils new anonymous text and tip hotline
By KATHY REED
Whidbey News Times Whidbey Crosswinds
April 19, 2012 · Updated 3:18 PM
Naval Criminal Investi-gative Service is trying to make it easier to keep our communities safe.
NCIS has implemented a new anonymous crime tip hot line. The text and web tip hotline — referred to as Text & Tip for short — takes advantage of the technology people use every day and allows crime tips to be sent to NCIS via cell phone and/or Internet.
“For years, NCIS has used informants as sources,” said Supervisory Special Agent James Campbell. “When you do that, informants become known. NCIS has never had a real Crimestoppers-type program that was anonymous.”
Officials hope the anonymity of the Text & Tip program will encourage friends, neighbors and community members --- civilian or military --- to speak up, in a manner of speaking, when they see something wrong.
“This allows people to provide information without being identified,” Campbell said.
Text & Tip is simple to use. Begin a tip with ‘NCIS,’ add the information and send it to 274637 (CRIMES). The information is routed to NCIS headquarters, where it is then forwarded to agents. There are no phone numbers or email addresses associated with the tips, but a general number is assigned to the tip as a way of identifying it for agents.
“This allows us to take over when we get the tip and we can actually communicate with the tipster if we need to gather additional information,” said Campbell. “We will ask if the tipster is willing to meet with an agent, but it is not required.”
Tips can also be submitted online at www.NCIS.navy.mil or at www.NAVSEA.navy.mil. Online tips are sent through a secure connection and are encrypted to remain confidential and anonymous. Those wishing to remain anonymous should not use their email accounts to send a tip, because email transmissions are not considered secure, said Campbell.
If the tip leads to the arrest of a suspect or the recovery of stolen property, drugs or an illegal weapon, the anonymous tipster can even collect a reward.
The new tip line coincides with the NCIS’ latest quarterly campaign, Insider Threat, which can encompass a number of different things.
While insider threats and espionage concerns affect military workplaces in particular, figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics say 1.7 million workers are victims of assault in the workplace each year, ranging from bullying and harassment to physical assaults. Any kind of threats of this nature can be reported to the new Text & Tip line.
“It can be intimidating to some people,” said Special Agent Caroline Braatz. “Who do you call? Where do you go? This gives them an avenue to call someone.”
“It goes hand in hand with Text & Tip,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of things to be aware of, such as workplace violence. Or somebody could be threatening a neighborhood. You don’t want to spy on your neighbors, but if you know there is something wrong, you don’t want to turn a blind eye, either.”
The agents also gave general safety guidelines for using social media. They discouraged people from posting certain kinds of information on Facebook that would allow people to know their spouse will be gone on deployment, or posting photos of their home taken with a smartphone, for example.
“Those pictures have GPS coordinates embedded in them,” said Campbell. “Criminals are sophisticated. They know how to find those coordinates so they can pinpoint your home’s location, so people need to be careful of the information they put out there.”