Boston Launches First-Ever Text Messaging Tip Line to Report Crimes

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 15, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: In "Big Crime": Some hip-hop artists have tried to encourage witnesses to crime to "stop snitching." If you see something, don't say something, and definitely don't talk to the police. But police in one big city just figured out a way to get witnesses to talk without saying a word. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy has more on the first-ever anonymous text tip.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, BIG STORY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, Boston police say young people will be more cooperative if they can use their cell phones to text message cops. It's all part of a new campaign to help solve a spate of unsolved murders.


KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): In October of 2006, 17-year-old Hardy Celestin was shot and killed for no reason while waiting for his school bus. Like many murders in Boston, Hardy's murder to this day remains unsolved. The victim, authorities say, of a growing wall of silence between residents of inner city and the police that are supposed to protect them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We talked about the texting and the cell phone use at crime scenes and how frustrating it was for us as police to know that there was vital information being shared among the people around us, but not being able to access that.

KENNEDY: Now, Boston police say they're trying to tear down that wall with an advertising campaign and new program allowing residents to text anonymous tips to cops about unsolved crimes from their cell phones.

THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON MAYOR: You type in the message and text message the number in and send the message over to the Boston police, and they will receive it and they'll have to communicate that information back and forth with you as they get all the information they need to do the investigation.

KENNEDY: Thomas Menino is Boston's mayor. He says he hopes the "Text a Tip" program will appeal to younger residents who have grown up to fear any cooperation with police.

THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON MAYOR: It's a snitching issue. It's a coward issue. Why are you talking to police? Why are you helping out? They're the bad guys.

KENNEDY: In part, Menino blames the hip-hop culture for popularizing phrases like "stop snitching," meaning don't talk to cops at all. But he says police also have to take responsibility for building trust among urban dwellers.

THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON MAYOR: By trying to overcome that fear of not cooperating with the police, that's why this text messaging and crime stuff, there's a concept where nobody knows that you're text messaging us, the Boston Police, and that raises the fear away from the individual who witnessed the crime.

KENNEDY: Hardy's mother says she just wants people to say what they know.

MARIE LAROSE, HARDY CELESTIN'S MOTHER: Do it for your loved ones. Do it for your own family, too. If you know someone killed someone you love, and you know that person, you should say something.


KENNEDY: Say something or now text something. Boston Police say anyone who wants to use the service can look on for details. They say, John, they are now waiting to be texted.

GIBSON: All right, Douglas, thank you.

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