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Local Law Enforcement Enters Social-Network Realm In Quest for Crime Tips

Want to take part in the fight against criminal activity in the community that you, your family and your friends call home? Tweet!

That, in 140 characters -- counting spaces, was the gist of the message from San Diego-area law enforcement officials today as they announced a campaign to generate crime tips from the ever-growing ranks of social-network enthusiasts.

Through the program, users of Twitter, Facebook, Nixle and Wordpress can sign up for electronic updates about wanted fugitives, ongoing local investigations and public safety issues.


The intention is to spur more citizen input, particularly from the tech-savvy youth set, to San Diego County Crime Stoppers, which works to help police agencies close the books on unsolved felony cases.

San Diego Assistant Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said a key priority in creating the new online information resource was to provide "another way to communicate with our younger audiences."

Sally Cox, executive director of Crime Stoppers, stressed that social-networking tipsters, as in the more traditional telephone informant, can remain anonymous.

Twitter -- which limits its users to 140-character-maximum messages, or "tweets" -- and the other Internet services linked to the service use data processing encrypted in such a way that the source is not "trackable" or "subpoenable," Cox said.

Sheriff Bill Gore conceded the program will inevitably add to the number of irrelevant or frivolous leads that detectives will have to chase down.


"Sometimes the tips pay off, and sometimes they don't," Gore said. "That just goes with any investigation, whether it be local, state or federal. It's part of the job, and we follow every one of them to a logical conclusion."

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