By G. Matthew Snyder, Homeland Security/Law Enforcement Program Manager, SPAWAR Atlantic-Advanced Law Enforcement Technology Branch, Charleston, South Carolina; and Joey Pomperada, Engineer, SPAWAR Atlantic-Advanced Law Enforcement Technology Branch, Charleston, South Carolina
itizens report tips to law enforcement agencies on a regular basis, whether it is to document an unfamiliar vehicle in the neighborhood or to report on a suspicious activity. Law enforcement officials are frequently able to use these tips to aid in their routine investigations and also in high-profile investigations. High-profile cases are unique in the sense that they typically generate a large number of tips during a short period of time. These high-profile cases often present significant challenges to law enforcement agencies and are further complicated when multiple agencies and jurisdictions are involved in the gathering and the analysis of tips. In most cases, the success of an investigation is dependent upon an agency’s ability to act quickly on a tip to make an apprehension or locate a missing person. When the agency receiving the tip and the agency acting on a tip are separate, inherent delays are often difficult to overcome. These challenges are not unique to large or small agencies; they are experienced by all agencies alike.
To address the problems associated with tip management and analysis, the United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Department of the Navy, Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center Atlantic developed a free software application named Project TIPLINE. The impetus for Project TIPLINE was the well-publicized “D.C. Sniper” investigation in 2002. That sniper case spanned the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia and involved dozens of law enforcement agencies working under tremendous pressure to make an immediate apprehension of the shooters. The Project TIPLINE application was specifically designed to expedite the process of converting tips to actionable information in a multijurisdictional environment. The benefits of the application are now available for individual agencies to implement for managing small-volume, routine tips and large-volume, major incident–related tips.
Project TIPLINE was developed by Dr. Cynthia Lum at George Mason University and based on extensive empirical and operational research. Representatives from Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department; Manassas City, Virginia, Police Department; and Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Department were involved from concept and design through software testing. From the practitioner perspective, the Project TIPLINE software must be adaptable to any agency that seeks implementation. The software is designed to be used by law enforcement agencies to manage and analyze data for problem solving, citizen complaints, natural disasters, missing person cases, and other critical incidents. It also can be used to collect tips from citizens by hosting the application on the jurisdiction’s website.
As a federally funded initiative, the Project TIPLINE software is a free, web-based application. After a tip is submitted via the web, the information is automatically stored in the TIPLINE database and analyses can be performed. A tip that is entered by one agency can be seen immediately by another agency that is involved in the case. This process dramatically reduces barriers to sharing tips and collating. The Project TIPLINE handbook, included with the software, provides important information that agencies should consider prior to implementing the software, such as instructions for installation and running analyses, considerations for developing standard operating procedures, and training guidelines. SPAWAR also will provide agencies with no-cost technical support to install and manage the application.
Today, Project TIPLINE is being implemented in small, medium, and large jurisdictions across the United States. Agencies that receive and implement the software are finding creative uses for it and are experiencing minimal installation challenges. The Alcoa, Tennessee, Police Department and the San Diego, California, Sheriff’s Department recently implemented Project TIPLINE. Experiencing few implementation challenges, both agencies successfully installed the software.
For more information about Project TIPLINE, e-mail Joey Pomperada at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the George Mason University website at gunston.gmu.edu/cebcp/Tipline/About.html. ■
Please cite as:
G. Matthew Snyder and Joey Pomperada, "Project TIPLINE: A Free Software Application for Law Enforcement," Technology Talk, The Police Chief 77 (September 2010): 86, http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/naylor/CPIM0910/index.php#/86 (insert access date).