Tipping the Scales
Washington State Border Patrol launches text messaging and Web tip service
Border security has been a hot-button issue ever
since Arizona passed its controversial immigration
law. The new measure orders immigrants
to carry proof of their immigration status at
all times, and they can be arrested if they can’t present
The police are allowed to question and arrest people
if there is a “reasonable suspicion” about their immigration
status and can charge undocumented citizens
with trespassing. The bill also makes it illegal to
hire and transport illegal immigrants, even if they are
family members. This immigration legislation is the
toughest in the country to date.
Separate But Equal
The southern border typically receives more media attention
and employs stricter security measures than
the northern border. However, the United States and
Canada share more than 5,000 miles of border, while
the United States and Mexico share 1,900 miles. It is
widely understood that the northern border is more
difficult to monitor due to its expansive and harsh
landscape, which is often exploited by traffickers.
The Canadian border is a prime throughway for
people and drugs. Since 1999, more than 100,000
pounds of marijuana have been smuggled into the
United States. It also is the main entryway for ecstasy.
Since 2005, ecstasy trafficking is eight times
greater at the northern border. According to the
2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, the amount
of ecstasy seized at the northern border increased by
594 percent from 2004 to 2009. Cocaine and heroin
seizures at the northern border also have risen from
less than 1 to 18 kilograms and less than 1 to 28 kilograms,
See it, Text it
In a less controversial and more evidence-based way
of dealing with border crimes, the U.S. Border Patrol’s
Spokane, Wash., sector is asking area residents,
campers, hikers and hunters to send an anonymous
text message from their cell phone or the Web when
they notice suspicious activity. The Spokane sector
employs 200 patrol agents and covers eastern Washington
and Idaho, and western Montana up to the
This tip-based method relies on actual eyewitness
accounts of suspicious behavior—when residents see
something suspicious, they send a text or Web tip.
The Spokane Sector Border Patrol and Anderson
Software, a provider of law enforcement tip management
software and Web applications, have joined together
to provide this pilot program.
“The popularity of text messaging has created a
significant opportunity for the public to assist the
Border Patrol in combating cross-border crime and
smuggling,” said Tim York Spokane, sector acting
chief patrol agent. “The ability for any citizen who
owns a mobile phone to assist in accomplishing our
mission of securing America’s borders is of great importance,
and we are excited to play a pivotal role in
the transmission of these crime fighting tips.”
Secure and Anonymous
Used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies, including
the New York Police Department, Los Angeles
Police Department, Chicago Police Department
and New Scotland Yard, TipSoft SMS guarantees
anonymity by encrypting text messages and routing
them through several secure servers, protecting the
personal details of the informant. The service assigns
an alias and a unique ID number to an informant,
which allows law enforcement to respond to the tipster
without knowing his or her identity.
The TipSoft website also supports two-way
online dialogue. When tips are received by text or
e-mail, the application provides an immediate alert
to law enforcement.
The system manages multiple tips by filtering them
to predefined users. Different tip information can be
designated for specific users. Tips also can be tracked
in the system, from the initial receipt of the information
to an arrest.
The server and processes are certified secure and
hackerproof by ScanAlert, the industry-leading server
security verification service.
The network, hardware and applications are audited
daily to ensure continual compliance with the
SANS/FBI security test, along with the Department
of Homeland Security’s published recommendations.
The application and transaction servers reside in a
state-of-the-art commercial data center employing
rigid corporate- and government-level security measures,
including full-time and screened onsite security
personnel who require biometric access.
Tips can be reported to border patrol by sending
a text message to “BORDERTIP” or “CRIMES,” or
through the WebTips website at http://www.tipsubmit.com.
About the Author
Sherleen Mahoney is a Web managing editor at 1105 Media.