In an attempt to make it as easy as possible for Philadelphians to reach out to the police with information about crimes, the Philadelphia Police Department launched two initiatives earlier this year: Text-a-Tip and the iWatch mobile app.
We wanted to know: how are Philly’s tipsters responding to the technology?
Since the beginning of the year, cops have received roughly 6,500 tips through various channels, according to department spokeswoman Karima Zedan: phone, the department’s website, email, text and mobile app. Here’s a breakdown of how often people use the different technologies, provided by Zedan. This is quantity not quality and based on very early numbers, as we explain more below, so see this as an early indicator and not the final word.
It’s important to note that iWatch and Text-a-Tip haven’t been around for that long. They launched in early and late April, respectively. So the current numbers can’t offer an accurate comparison of how often tipsters use the new technology.
Philadelphia police tip numbers
Since Text-a-Tip‘s launch in late April, the department has received about 600 tips by text.
From mid-February to August 1st, the department has received 2,389 tips by phone.
Since the iWatch app launch in early April, the department has received 47 tips through the mobile app.
As of July 31st, the department has received 3,251 tips through its website this year. This number includes emails.
Zedan says that last year, the department received more than 3,600 tips through its website. This year’s online tips are on pace to exceed that number.
Since iWatch and Text-a-Tip have only been available for a few months, as opposed to the department’s website and phone line, we used the data to create per-month averages for each category so it was possible to compare the numbers visually. Still, Zedan tells us that the website has mostly received more tips as time as gone by, presumably as more people find out about the service. Thus, the per-month average can be a little screwy, but it certainly helps to show early differences.
In short: the website tip line has overtaken the phone call, and text-a-tip is already averaging a couple hundred tips — some surely more valuable than others — while the iWatch app isn’t having the same impact.
The department is working on a system to track which tips actually led to an arrest and to identify where they came from (online, phone, etc.), Zedan says, but it’ll take some time. For now, these metrics are a volume game, but as tracking improves, Zedan says this will hopefully send the message to Philadelphians that their tips matter.
There has been recent media coverage about our city’s so-called “stop snitching” culture spurred by the tragic shooting of a 2-year-old girl earlier this summer. These articles from the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia City Paper offer opposing takes on the incident.