Sarah Coss, an 18-year-old incoming freshman at the University of Tampa, typically logs around 6,000 text messages a month chatting to her friends. She thinks people who use text messaging every day will be more likely to report crimes that way, and the impersonal nature of text messaging will give more people her age the confidence to share information with authorities.
"It might take a while for people to know about it and get more comfortable with it, and for people to know it's really anonymous, and they're not going to get in trouble," she said.
Just like callers to a crime hot line, text tipsters can collect rewards for significant information. It's done with the cooperation of banks that hand over the cash — no questions asked — to people who present a code issued by police.
Officers acknowledge it may take time to get used to the text shorthand favored by younger people, who tend to LOL at the relative technological cluelessness of their parents' generation.
"We were kind of nervous about that, having to learn a new code language," Bernardi chuckled.