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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Communicating with Gainesville Police is now as simple as sending a text.

TipSoft software, available through police technology company PublicEngines, allows users to send anonymous crime tips and receive activity alerts via text message, email and a smartphone application.

Gainesville residents and UF students can now text tips to “CRIMES” (274637) using the keyword GPDFL or submit through the company’s TipSubmit Mobile application, according to a GPD news release. Both methods will protect users’ identities on all anonymous tips.

“When you have the ability to send a text message, it’s a lot less intrusive to the person who’s reporting the crime,” said GPD spokesman Ben Tobias.

Another feature of the software, TipSoft Alerts, allows Gainesville Police to text and/or email crime activity alerts to the public, similar to the UF Alerts system.

“We’re trying to figure out more ways to reach more people in the community,” Tobias said.

Both TipSoft and TipSoft Alerts allow users to anonymously respond to GPD with questions or additional information, he said.

William Kilmer, CEO of PublicEngines, said the company has set up technological and legal solutions to guarantee user anonymity.

During a conversation between police and citizens, no IP address or cellphone data is transmitted, he said. There is also a separate organization in place to prevent any legal pursuit of the tip provider.

“It’s an easier way to have a two-way dialogue with the city,” Tobias said.

Since UF started sending out text and email alerts in 2008, students and faculty have been able to receive alerts faster than the previous email system, said Kenneth Allen, emergency management coordinator for UF Environmental Health & Safety.

In a Fall 2012 survey administered to 683 UF students, alumni, faculty and parents, close to 70 percent of respondents said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the UF Alert system.

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Amelia Butler, a 20-year-old public relations senior, is the founder of Lady Gators are R.A.D., an outreach organization to increase student awareness of rape aggression defense classes offered through the University Police.

She said the organization has a section on the website where students can ask questions directly to a university police officer without using their name or calling the police department.

“I think it’s something students feel more comfortable with,” she said. “I really respect the fact that they’re going to offer something where students can increase their communication.”

Sign up for TipSoft Alerts on GPD’s website at www.gainesvillepd.org.

Contact Kathryn Varn at kvarn@alligator.org.

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