Antioch is the first city in the Bay Area to use text messages on a large scale to help solve crimes, this according to the Contra Costa Times. The new program is designed to get people within the community more engaged with police and to do so without raising concerns of being labeled a “snitch.”
The program allows for people to use their phone to send a text message to police. By texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and putting “Antioch” and any leads in the body of the text message, citizens can submit information without talking directly to police.
The police hope the most appealing part of this new program will be that texters can remain anonymous. These days, cops have a hard time finding witnesses willing to talk when they’ve seen a crime go down. This program actually sends the text messages to a clearing house in Canada before they are relayed to Antioch police. Your number is not passed along with the information.
The only way the Antioch police will know who sent the message is if you include your name or contact information in the text message itself. This allows people to report details they might not otherwise feel comfortable sharing, whether for fear of being labeled a “snitch” or fear of retaliation.
Anonymous tips have always had a place in police work. Crime Stoppers phone lines are a good example of this. They allow people who don’t want to be identified to come forward when they have information that may be weighing heavily on them.
But there are also problems with anonymous tips. We depend on the police to substantiate the claims of any nameless witness before acting on them. In other words, we don’t want the police simply taking someone’s word for it without having additional evidence.
You might be surprised, however, how witness testimony can affect a criminal case. Though it’s rare, there are occasions that witness testimony was the sole piece of evidence in a case, where the word of someone ultimately sent someone else to prison.
When you are accused of a crime, you want to know that the truth will come out. This is true whether you are charged with something like cocaine possession or a theft charge that marks your third strike under California’s notorious Three Strikes Law. When the police and prosecutor give credibility to every witness, even those who remain anonymous, it can feel like your hopes for fair treatment under the law are lost.
Fortunately, if you have a local defense attorney on your side, you know you have an advocate fighting for your best interests and working to ensure your rights are protected throughout the criminal justice process.
If you are accused of a criminal offense, contact our offices today. We can offer a free consultation and some potentially valuable legal advice.