Crime Stoppers taking over Text-A-Tip program used in local schools

Det. Kevin Boehm figures Crime Stoppers can handle the increased workload, especially if the challenge helps keep area schools safer. The Kansas City Police Department’s coordinator for the Greater Kansas City TIPS hotline now has the task of overseeing the administration of the Text-A-Tip program, which started in northland schools about five years ago. The Northland Safe School Task Force in conjunction with the Northland Coalition previously ran the initiative, but growth led them to ask Kansas City’s Crime Stoppers to take over. The change became official at an Aug. 27 press conference. Boehm said Crime Stoppers currently processes about 5,000 tips a year but believes the current staff can handle as much as 7,500. The Park Hill, Platte County and North Platte school districts already use Text-A-Tip, while West Platte became one of three districts to recently inquire about adding it since the Thursday announcement. “We think our program is very successful and law enforcement seems to like it,” Boehm said. “It’s a good partnership with the media. It’s just a positive all around. “It’s a great problem to have. We really do welcome it.” Text-A-Tip started when Sgt. Steve Taylor with Clay County Sheriff’s Department learned of a similar program in use in a South Dakota school. He brought the idea back to Missouri and successfully implemented it with help from the NSSTF and Northland Coalition, starting with the North Kansas City School District. Each district involved must pay for software and a licensing fee before instituting a keyword. Students receive instruction on texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) including the key word to anonymously alert authorities to dangerous activity with a potential cash reward of up to $2,000 if it leads to a felony arrest. The keyword — “NPHS” for North Platte, “Trojans” for Park Hill High School, “Panthers” for Park Hill South and “Pirates” for Platte County — allows the center receiving the texts to trace the potential lead to the appropriate district. Congress (Cougar) and Lakeview (Lynx) Middle Schools in the Park Hill district also have their own keyword. Currently, eight districts utilize the service, which could go up to 11 with the addition of Excelsior Springs, Independence and West Platte with continued future growth a possibility. “Immediately, what kind of got me is it’s a much more systemic, streamlined process to get info into our hands so that we can investigate,” said West Platte High School principal Logan Lightfoot, who recently attended a meeting to learn more about the program. “You might have kids that don’t feel comfortable coming into the principal’s office to report something. It gives them another option. It’s a program that could potentially help keep our students a little bit safer.” Crime Stoppers came to Kansas City in 1982, producing more than 130,400 tips and more than 10,600 arrests. Through the TIPS hotline, more than 24,220 cases have been cleared, including 612 homicides, 5,790 narcotics cases and 3,224 fugitives apprehended. All statistics are as of Aug. 1. People with information can call the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS (8477), submit it electronically at or text it to 274637 with the keyword TIP452 included. The whole process is anonymous, and Crime Stoppers has paid in excess of $1 million since its inception. In the past five years, Text-A-Tip in the schools has led to multiple guns recovered and several potential suicides revealed. That’s enough to judge the success of the program. “Everything we do is anonymous so we can’t get data on who our tipsters are or how often they use it,” Boehm said. “We think it’s worth it.”