As the spring semester unfolds, VCU Police are taking initiative through text programs to establish communication between students and police.
The program, Text-a-Tip, launched in February 2011 and creates an interactive initiative between students, faculty and others in the VCU community, that allows for tips to be sent via text message through their cell phones.
Text-a-Tip allows students to directly contact the police. In a digital world where students are constantly on phones, the department felt that it would be a convenient and easy way for them to receive feedback from students.
So far, the program has led to the department gaining information about alcohol use, drug use and sales, broken street lights and loud houses.
Mike Porter, liaison for the VCU Police Department and public relations specialist at VCU, said he wants to make it clear that every text or tip is important and meaningful.
“(Chief of Police) John Venuti acts on them personally, investigates, commends the good service and checks into the bad (tips),” he said.
The simple system involves tipsters texting “VCUtip” to the number 274637, which then opens up a dialogue with university police. The texts are sent directly to Venuti’s phone, as well as a few other officers in the department. The system responds with an identifying number, and it is the only identification the police have for the informant so students can send a tip. All tips are anonymous.
The focus of Text-a-Tip is to provide information that will help solve crimes already committed or to prevent crimes that could happen in the future. Students are discouraged to use the program for crimes that are in progress. Cash rewards are offered to those who provide information that can lead to an arrest or conviction.
Along with Text-a-Tip, another initiative program, Service, is provided to allow students, faculty and staff to provide feedback on the customer service they are receiving from the police department. Due to the high volume of security personnel in the area, academic, residential, escort drivers, etc., texting a tip about an experience is the easiest way to get the information to the police.
“I wanted to make it easy for you guys to let me know when we are doing really good or fall short,” Venuti said. “Customer service has been a really important initiative, and I want my people bending over backwards for you and the students.”