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Crime Stoppers app lets tipsters send photos, videos anonymously

A series of screenshots from Toronto Crime Stopper’s new app, which lets users send videos, photos and other anonymous tips.

Screengrabs/Google Play

Busting the neighbourhood drug dealer or the drunken driver weaving through traffic just got a whole lot easier and quicker, courtesy of your smartphone.

In what it says is the first program of its kind in North America, Toronto Crime Stoppers on Wednesday launched its newest weapon: An interactive app allowing citizens to relay to police anonymous, live information about a crime that has been or is about to be committed.

"It's been tested and tested and tested and we're ready to go public now," said Detective Darlene Ross, the Toronto Police Service's Crime Stoppers co-ordinator.

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"This is all going to be right at your fingertips. The technology is very progressive and so is our program, and the message we are bringing forward. ... More tips. more information, more crime-solving and more crime prevention."

Since its inception in 1984 as a kind of phone-in hotline, Crime Stoppers has been transformed.

This latest innovation permits people to send texts, e-mails, photos and short video clips directly to Crime Stoppers. There's also a speed-dial button for those who prefer to communicate by talking.

As well, the app hosts a GPS locator showing the nearest police stations, links to police social media sites, and the pictures and names of some of city's most wanted criminals.

What hasn't changed, however, is the program's blanket assurance that regardless of the information tipsters will remain anonymous, a guarantee upheld by a 1997 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.

That doesn't just mean police will leave the informant alone. It also means that even though they may be communicating with the person, most of the time they don't know who he or she is, since there's no requirement to include identifiers with the information.

Building that security feature into the new apps – available free, via Apple or BlackBerry – was a major consideration, said Steve Nesbitt of Cellflare, the Toronto-based mobile-application that developed the new tool.

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Last year, Toronto's Crime Stoppers program fielded more than 9,500 tips, 40 per cent of them via the Internet, and it's hoped that number will now increase, Det. Ross said.

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At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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