Crime Stoppers of Wellington County


To migrate many years of criminal tracking information and tips to an askSam-based system.


askSam and TextPipe Help Turn Crime Tips Into Arrests

By Peter McEachern, Co-ordinator - Crime Stoppers of Wellington County

Nestled in the heart of Southern Ontario Canada, in the town of Fergus, is the Crime Stopper program covering Wellington County. Crime is no stranger to any of our communities and is enforced by local and provincial police. Crime Stoppers, as a service, supports law enforcement by providing tips gathered by their staff. Those reporting the tips, "Tipsters" they are called with affection, have their identities protected through rigorously followed procedures and mechanisms. The tips, provided by the Tipsters, are recorded and immediately forwarded to law enforcement for investigation, arrest and prosecution. Millions of dollars annually is diverted or recovered from Criminal Activities directly related to Crime Stopper programs.

Still, Crime Stoppers was faced with a technical challenge. Through the years a number of products have been engaged to assist in the tip gathering and reporting process. The current product, TipSoft, is now used as a standard throughout Ontario. TipSoft came with some challenges. It contained thousands of tips, a valuable history for law enforcement for patterning and investigation of old crimes, but these became unusable as the application product (CSWorks) became unstable and unsupported. TipSoft was without a method, short of re-entering the data, of capturing the old data. I was introduced to askSam and, in short order, had the complete history dataset loaded and ready for use.

Another product that works great with askSam is TextPipe. TextPipe was deployed to 'clean up' the old data renaming the fields to more useable conventions, expanding abbreviations to full readable and searchable forms, removal of unnecessary formatting and special characters used in the old system but otherwise 'messy' and the removal of unnecessary or unused fields before importing into askSam. TextPipe saved HOURS of manual editing and was able to accomplish massive improvements quickly with its easy to use interface. TextPipe’s integration with askSam was important as it allowed a seamless progression from raw data to a finished dataset quickly and easily.

Not only did askSam provide stable access to information previously lost it was soon discovered that valuable information was able to be discovered through askSam's full text retrieval methods. A hypothetical example, law enforcement may inquire whether they had received any tips about a named party selling drugs. Searching by the suspects name revealed that a tip had been recorded with the named party as a suspect. Additionally, however, it was noted in the original tip that the party was wearing a red parka and driving a blue Taurus. Highlighting 'red parka and blue Taurus' and instructing askSam to continue looking found three more incidents involving drug sales by a then unidentified party wearing a red parka and driving a blue Taurus.

With the other records it was revealed that known associates were reported and three new locations where the drug transactions were observed. This information can now be provided to law enforcement as 'additional potentially related' information to augment the original tip. Arrest and prosecution leads to rewards for the tipsters. Arrest and prosecution leads to a safer community for us all by removing criminals from our streets and providing strong deterrents for crime.

It is through the use of askSam that Crime Stoppers is now able to see views of their data that were previously veiled using conventional or otherwise out-of-date products.

TextPipe was first deployed in the conversion of the old data and is now being used to reformat (for consistency) data from other sources useful within the Crime Stopper Program. TextPipe teamed with askSam has proved to be another excellent tool to help Crime Stoppers extend the value of their tip taking services.

In the end, TextPipe's pre-filtering coupled with askSam's rapid deployment, powerful searching, flexible gathering and reporting tools, has been a tremendous asset. They are, and shall remain, quite highly recommended.