A rash of car thefts this month has the El Segundo Police Department looking for leads to investigate.
This week, ESPD detectives turned to a method that law enforcement agencies are increasingly finding effective — crowdsourcing crime tips, essentially, via its Nixle notification service.
Nixle is a service the police department began offering the community in 2012. Community members sign up, free of charge, to receive various police reports and public information notifications by email or text. This week, the ESPD added a wrinkle to Nixle — the ability to make the notification service a two-way information flow via “Tip Watch,” which allows witnesses to pass along anonymous crime tips via text message, the Internet or a telephone call.
ESPD Lt. Jaime Burmudez said that the hope is anonymous texting in particular will prove to be a valuable new source for leads.
“Texting has become a primary way of communicating these days,” Burmudez said. “I think people are comfortable doing it, and on top of that, it’s anonymous, so we can get information and follow up on it.”
The new “Tip Watch” was unveiled as the ESPD seeks information on a startling recent uptick of auto thefts. Eight vehicles have been stolen in the city since January 1 — up 300 percent over a year ago — including 8 Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks.
“If you have a Toyota Tacoma, keep an eye out,” Burmudez said.
Burmudez said the Tip Watch should be an ideal tool to find out if anyone in the community has seen anything unusual the police can follow up on.
“We are really trying to put it out to the community — if you see something, say something,” he said. “I don’t know how many times it’s happened we go out to respond to a call and we’ll be talking to a neighbor and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, I came out and saw someone in a car that looked a little suspicious, but I didn’t call the police’ and then find out they had something to do with the theft. Had they just taken the two minutes to call us, we might have gotten our i.d. on the suspect and maybe prevented the theft.”
“So really, we are asking folks to call call Nixle anytime they see something suspicious — they know who belongs in their neighborhood,” he added. “They know their neighbors and they know their cars. People really do recognize suspicious behavior in their neighborhood.”