Applications of the TIPLINE System

TIPLINE does not only have to be used for critical, high-profile incidents like the D.C. Sniper case.  Rather, the enclosed application can have a wide range of applications in a police agency, and can be used in agencies with varying technological resources.  This handbook and enclosed software applications are intended for agencies to use to tailor and develop their own tip line processes and standard operating procedures.  Although the enclosed instructions and software are developed for two broad applications – preparing for critical incidents and use in ongoing investigations – they can be applied to many different types of law enforcement information collection needs.  For example, TIPLINE can be used for:

Critical Incidents: Critical incidents such as the Washington, D.C. Sniper or high profile kidnapping/missing children cases often use tip lines to facilitate a rapid response for an urgent situation.  Such a rapid response requires that tip line systems are in place prior to the occurrence of an event.  The TIPLINE package provides guidelines, web interfaces, databases, and analytic applications to prepare for the automated intake and analysis of large amounts of tips and provides templates for agencies to create standard operating procedures that are tailored to their needs and agency standards.

Ongoing Investigations: This handbook and software may also be used to develop general tip lines for ongoing investigations of persons, places, criminogenic commodities (e.g., drugs, guns), or other community problems faced by law enforcement agencies.  For example, tip lines can be used to solicit anonymous tips about drug trafficking, gang activity, or gun violence in an area, or to obtain information on specific cases as they arise.  Because it is an automated system that does not rely only on the use of telephones (although telephones can be used), multiple tip lines can be in operation simultaneously (for example, multiple TIPLINE links may be placed on an agency’s website that connects to a single or separate databases).

Other Uses: TIPLINE processes and applications can also be used by police agencies to record, manage, and analyze large amounts of information for other law enforcement purposes such as problem-solving projects, citizen complaint systems, or for use in natural disasters or mass-casualty events.  For example, police agencies can use this system to receive and analyze patterns in citizen complaints which may be useful in improving the performance and legitimacy of an agency.  Or, as was the case during Hurricane Katrina, there can be an immediate need to record data on missing individuals across multiple jurisdictions and then to continually update that status to inform family members and the media.

Benefits of the TIPLINE System

  • This handbook and software are free, easy to use, and adaptable.
  • No subscription to an information service is necessary, nor is this a trial version of a larger application.  All materials used in the TIPLINE system are enclosed.
  • These materials are sponsored and supported by the U.S. Department of Justice (National Institute of Justice) and U.S. Department of Defense (SPAWAR).
  • These materials are based on practitioner and evidence-based research about what is known about tip lines in the U.S., how they can be and are used, and what works in collecting, analyzing and operationalizing large quantities of tips.
  • These materials have been created in direct consultation and testing with three law enforcement agencies and other individuals who have direct experience and knowledge about tip line use, crime analysis, information sharing, and police deployment.
  • The protocol and software emphasize automation and analysis, moving away from hand-written telephone systems that examine tips on a tip-by-tip basis.
  • This handbook and software are modifiable to an agency’s own standards, resources, technology, and capabilities so as to minimize the costs of setting up and preparing for a tip line response.