Chattin with the Chief

Interview between Chief Henson and Journal Reporter Alexandra Cannon

Let’s talk about the crime map. This initiative is something that you guys set up, but every police department doesn’t do that, right?

Right, it’s a service provided by LexisNexis, and it is free to any law enforcement agency that wants to participate. I don’t know how many they have, but I know around us there isn’t another agency nearby that has it but we thought it was interesting and we thought the public would like to see it. We initially started on it in 2015, and it was Raids Online back then. They sold out and LexisNexis ended up with the product and they offered it to us through our reporting system and that’s how we found out it was the same thing we tried back in ’15. Exact same product. So once we told them we wanted to do it, it probably took them a week or two to get everything done and get the uploads started. There is an automatic pull that happens every morning, they automatically pull it from our data system. So the reports that we input, our guys enter an offense report and they go in and pull that information so it’s actually an automatic upload from the Groesbeck Police Department to LexisNexis.

I played around with the crime map this morning, and it’s really neat because you can look up different types of crimes that have occurred for any different range of time for anywhere in the city. When it comes to sending an anonymous tip, you get that option by clicking a location where crime has occurred. What do you do if you want to share information about illegal activity that isn’t linked to any location where crime has occurred?

It is very easy to do and you can pick em one by one. I typically go down and select all and pull em all up together. The anonymous tip link on that specific icon is not specific to that crime. When you click on that, it will ask you what information you’re wanting to relay. It’s not necessarily tied to that offense, you can click on any of them. Tips 411 is also a standalone, you can go directly to their website. They also have a mobile app product, which we haven’t ventured into yet because I don’t know what the cost is, but they make a mobile app for various agencies that people can download and communicate anonymously. The cool part about that is, it’s two-way. If you submit a tip, I can actually respond to you and go back and forth and it’s still anonymous. It goes to a third party and they remove all identifying information, everything. All we get is the tip information you’re supplying. I don’t know who you are or where you live, I can’t tell you anything about you, all I can see is the information you’re giving because they scrub all that before it gets to us. That program is not intended to take the place of Crimestoppers. Crimestoppers is run through the Sheriff’s Department and it runs through their point of contact and that point of contact determines where the information goes. For a lot of ours, we would just prefer direct contact. So when you submit a tip, it comes straight here, I’m the one who’s getting it. That feature goes straight to my account and no one else. That allows us to get the information in a lot more timely fashion direct to us. Obviously Crimestoppers is extremely valuable, but this is just a different version for us that you can communicate directly with us.

A lot of people relate to the sentiment of “I don’t want to be a snitch”. Through the crime map, anyone can report anonymously. Do you think people will be receptive to this form of anonymous information sharing?

We get that a lot with high school kids, and some adults. “I don’t want to snitch on anyone” or “I don’t want to tell on anyone”. The thing is, when you pull up our crime map and you see what’s on there, if you go back 6 months you’re going to see a lot of dots on that screen, but a majority of them are low level incidents, criminal trespass, they’re very minor infractions and you have people in town that see that and they don’t understand that there’s a lot of things we don’t know. We don’t know what you know because we don’t live where you live, I’m not seeing what you see. But a lot of people are under the impression that we know everything but we don’t. They’ll say “well I know you know they’re selling dope out of that house”; I didn’t, and I don’t if you don’t tell me. It requires engagement and we’re really engaged with the community, they’re really comfortable with us. They trust us and that’s more valuable to us than anything else, but we’re really trying to bridge that gap there with people feeling comfortable relaying information like that. This allows them to give that to us.

To read more of this story, pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of The Groesbeck Journal! You can also subscribe online or call 254-729-5103.

Groesbeck Journal

P.O. Box 440
Groesbeck, TX 76642
Phone: 254-729-5103
Fax: 254-729-0362