Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Using Technology to Fight Crimes

Texting on a keyboard phoneI gave a presentation last week that included ways that educators could leverage the presence of cell phones in the classroom - integrate them into the educational process - rather than simply banning them or having students turn them off. Here's a link to a blog post I used to lead the presentation - where you can find links to relevant resources, under the Cell Phones heading.
From today's New York Times, here's another great example of using the technology to improve how an organization operates - it comes from the NYC Police Department. As you would expect, one of the biggest challenges any police department faces is getting citizens to report crimes. Capitalizing on the growing number of young people that use cell phones primarily for texting - rarely making calls - the NYCPD has put in place, and begun publicizing a system to allow anonymous texting of crime reports. Users can even initiate a text conversation with detectives from the CrimeStoppers bureau. It will be interesting to see what impact this new initiative has on crime.

The gap between this group of young people - digital natives - and "older" people like myself - digital immigrants - is further highlighted by the phrase "callers must text the word" in the passage below. If they're texting, they're not callers!

Now for the million dollar question! How are you and your institution leveraging the power of cell phones to reach and engage this generation?

Police Urge Crimefighters to Text Their Tips - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog
For years, mayors, police commissioners, community leaders and others have sought to drill into the heads of New Yorkers a simple toll-free phone number do dial to anonymously help in solving crimes: 1-800-577-TIPS.

Now, they want to enlist a younger generation of crime-busters. On Tuesday, the Police Department publicized directions for citizens on how to send text messages to the authorities, to provide the same sort of anonymous tips for investigators working on unsolved criminal cases.

The directions are simple, according to Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. To initiate a conversation with detectives in the CrimeStoppers bureau, callers must text the word CRIMES (or 274637 on a cellular phone).

Then, to initiate an exchange of messages, and to ensure that identities are protected, a caller must begin the message with the phrase TIP577. The caller will get a response from the police assigning an alias or a code name, which will probably be a combination of letters and numbers.

“You can text back and forth and stop it any time,” Mr. Browne said.

To stop it, a caller simply types the word STOP in the message field and send it as a text message, “and no more police responses will appear on the cellphone,” Mr. Browne said.
Image from Alton via Wikipedia

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