East Bay Regional Coalition (EBRC), based in eastern Rhode Island, recently partnered with the law enforcement sector to establish an anonymous text-a-tip line in three communities they serve. This collaboration has not only led to a strengthened relationship between law enforcement and community members but has additionally led to key discoveries and more opportunities for cross-sector partnerships.
“The text-a-tip line was one of the evidence-based practices we could implement as part of our grant which aims to reduce underage drinking,” said Steven Eiland, Partnership for Success Coordinator at EBRC. “The initiative first began back in October of 2019 with the Bristol Police Department, who were absolutely on board with setting up the tip line. The city of Warren followed shortly after in July of 2020, and we recently launched the line in February of 2022 for East Providence, Rhode Island.”
Through the use of a third-party vendor, community members in the city of Bristol are now able to submit tips via text or through an app. While police are able to respond to tips with clarifying questions, these tips are kept completely anonymous, so that community members can feel comfortable submitting.
From the launch of the program to April 2022, nearly 1,200 tips were collected with 14% being directly related to alcohol or other substances. One tip led to the identification of someone who would receive orders via text and sell alcohol to underage youth, and another tip led to the identification of a marijuana dealer at a local high school. Additional tips led to an intervention in a suicide threat, the removal of a “ghost” gun, traffic reports regarding DUIs, and noise complaints which often pointed to locations where underage drinking occurred.
To market this new community resource, EBRC implemented a range of advertising methods. These included ads in the local newspaper, social media campaigns and ads on their local radio station. The strategy that proved to be the most effective in getting the word out was direct mailer campaigns, which EBRC recently completed another round of this month.
“We’re really happy with the amount of engagement we’ve gotten on the text-a-tip lines up to this point. The police departments have shared with us how they feel it’s made a massive impact as far as community relations and making them feel more connected with the community members they serve. It’s also opened up the door for us to implement other strategies with this sector as well, such as helping to implement party patrols and compliance checks. Overall, it’s been a fantastic tool and provides us with monthly data that keeps us up to date with what’s going on in the communities, and we look forward to seeing additional outcomes this upcoming year,” said Steven.
For those interested in starting a text-a-tip line in their communities, Steven shared, “The biggest piece of advice I have is go directly to the decision maker with the proposal of this initiative. Often going through other members of law enforcement can cause the program to be delayed, so try to set up initial meetings with the Chief of Police when first getting started.”