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Crime fighting goes mobile in Crow Wing County: Sheriff's office launches new app

Crow Wing County Deputy Phillip Stanley (left), Deputy Jon Collins and Lieutenant Scott Goddard show the new mobile app allowing residents to submit anonymous crime tips to the sheriff's office. Submitted by: Crow Wing County

A smartphone app released this week offers residents a new way to submit anonymous tips to the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office.

Using CWCS Mobile, residents can find information, view alerts, and provide tips on crimes and suspicious activity to law enforcement, all from their smartphone.

Investigative Sergeant Andrew Galles, who also oversees the county's local drug task force, said tips from the public are essential to law enforcement in building cases for arrests.

"Our residents are the eyes and ears of our community," stated Galles in a news release. "This provides a new way for us to connect with the public, especially younger generations who may be less likely to call in a tip over the phone."

Hosted by Minnesota-based company tip411, the technology removes all identifying information before authorities see the tips so messages are confidential. The system also allows staff to respond back to a tipster, creating an anonymous, two-way conversation. While messages will be monitored regularly, the sheriff's office reminded the public to dial 911 for reporting emergencies.

The CWCS Mobile app is available for download for free via the Google Play and iTunes App stores. Residents without a smartphone can also connect with law enforcement by submitting tips through the county's website at www.crowwing.us or by sending anonymous tips via text message from their cell phone by texting keyword TIPCW and their tip to 847411.

The new technology is the latest in a series of efforts undertaken by the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office to combat area crime, the news release stated. In 2014, the agency introduced new patrolling and investigative techniques to address the county's burglary problem, contributing to a 56 percent reduction in break-ins for the year. According to the latest crime report released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the county's burglary rate (number of crimes per 1000 residents) is 2.8—a rate more than two times lower than that of the surrounding counties of Aitkin and Cass.

Sheriff Todd Dahl is calling on area residents to join the team in keeping Crow Wing County safe by reporting suspicious activity using the new tip app or by calling the sheriff's office at 218-829-4749.

Keeping an eye out for warning signs of drug activity such as those listed below is one way the public can help out:

• Unusual traffic patterns. Look for excessive foot traffic to and from a house, a high volume of cars stopping at the property for short amounts of time or visitors at odd hours.

• Extensive/out of place security. Watch for blackened/covered windows or video cameras or other makeshift surveillance equipment (e.g., underwater fish cameras/baby monitors) mounted on or near the home.

• Odd/paranoid behavior. Occupants may seem unfriendly or secretive. Drug users can have a "zombie-like" appearance (underweight, skin lesions, mouth and gum deterioration).

• Strange smells. Chemical odors coming from the house or surrounding outbuildings could indicate drug production is occurring on-site.

For those with seasonal residences or for anyone concerned with home security, the sheriff's office also offers the following tips for protecting properties from break-ins:

• High-tech solution. Investing in a live-streaming video camera (e.g., Nest Cam, Samsung SmartCam) is an affordable way to increase home surveillance while away. Units typically cost between $100 and $200, and can include features such as motion sensors and push notifications when there is unusual activity in a home.

• Low-tech solution. "Knowing your neighbors" is often times the best form of home protection, the sheriff's office stated. If neighbors know one another and when they are home, they can keep an eye out for unusual activity and report it to each other or local law enforcement.

For more information and to receive updates, please visit the Sheriff's Office page on the Crow Wing County website or follow Crow Wing County on Facebook and Twitter.

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