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Anonymous tipster apps could help you save lives

Posted at 4:30 AM, Mar 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-01 07:05:57-05

A 2004 federal study of school shootings found that over two 80 percent of shooters told someone their plan ahead of time; about 60 percent told more than one person. 

At the time, their confidants might not have known what to do. Maybe, like members of group chats in which Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz participated, they thought it might be a joke; maybe, given the high number of mass shooters who have also committed acts of domestic violence, they were afraid to tell anyone else.

Services such as Safe 2 Tell offer an option some of them might have appreciated: A way to anonymously contact authorities with tips or concerns about potential threats. Safe 2 Tell Colorado saw an 85 percent increase in reports from the 2016-'17 school year to the next.

However, University of Cincinnati associate professor Jeff Blevins said any anonymous forum can be polluted by bullies and trolls who distract from genuine requests for help.

"Anonymity might be good if people want to share something without retribution," he said. "But someone with ill intentions can really abuse that anonymity."

See: The practice of "swatting," when online trolls find the real address of a target and reports a violent crime happening there, resulting in local authorities sending a SWAT team to that location. In December 2017, a "swatting" call claimed the life of an innocent victim whose address came up in a dispute over a "Call of Duty" match.

Blevins reiterated, however, that it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you have a concern about a person in your community or information about a crime and would like to leave an anonymous tip for police, contact Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040.