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Thousands of crime tips meant for Little Rock police were sent to an agency across the country in recent years because of an error on the city website.

A link to submit anonymous crime tips on mistakenly directed the information to Puget Sound Crime Stoppers of Seattle. The agency received about 3,700 crime tips intended for Little Rock police since 2013, according to emails the group sent to Little Rock police. The emails were released under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

The link was removed from the city website in July after an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter contacted both agencies about the mistake.

"I was like, 'OK, no wonder I got [Little Rock] tips,'" Puget Sound Crime Stoppers regional coordinator Ilona Bodderij said in an interview.


Bodderij said she routinely forwarded crime tips to Little Rock police through TipSoft, a computer program both agencies used to manage such information. Passing along the information was "very easy," she wrote in an email to Little Rock police. TipSoft allows users to forward crime tips to each other within the program, or through email or fax.

Little Rock police Sgt. Cassandra Davis was the department's Crime Stoppers coordinator when its tips were being forwarded from an agency roughly 1,800 miles away.


"I always wondered why I was getting tips from Seattle," she said.

Little Rock police said it stopped using the TipSoft program in 2015 and joined Central Arkansas Crime Stoppers, a collaboration among several law enforcement agencies in the region. But emails show that Puget Sound continued to receive tips meant for Little Rock and tried to forward those tips using TipSoft.

Little Rock police did not receive those tips until Aug. 17, after Puget Sound Crime Stoppers learned the department was no longer using TipSoft. The information was sent through email.

Bodderij said the Seattle-based agency looked up and re-sent about 30 crime tips to Little Rock police. The oldest of the tips had been submitted in May, and the most recent had been filed Aug. 7, she said.

Little Rock police spokesman Richard Hilgeman, who took over the department's Crime Stoppers program last year, said it was unclear if the delay had affected any investigations. He said he simply passes along the tips to detectives. Sometimes he receives a dozen tips in a day, Hilgeman said. Sometimes there are none.


The tips are exempt from public records requests.

It was unclear how the link to Puget Sound Crime Stoppers made it onto Little Rock's website. Internet archives show the link on the website in September 2014, but according to an archived web snapshot, the link was not there June 10, 2014.

A spokesman for TipSoft could not be reached for comment.

Davis, who now works in the Police Department's internal affairs division, said police had used TipSoft for about a decade. She said there's "not much collaboration" between the city and police when it comes to the municipal website.

Little Rock police spokesman Lt. Steve McClanahan, who became the department's public affairs director in June 2015, said he hadn't used the link.

McClanahan has instead used social media to encourage the public to submit information to police, telling residents to call (501) 371-4636 to provide anonymous tips.

However, the Little Rock Police Department is known to routinely deny certain individuals the ability to post comments on their Facebook and twitter pages, especially if the individual has made a comment that places the department in a bad light.  This act is seen as a violation of an individuals right to free speech.

City spokesman Jennifer Godwin said the link to Puget Sound Crime Stoppers was likely an oversight. She said the city did not have a staff member in charge of web content until recently. A new website is on the way, she said, and it will feature more collaboration between police and the city.

"Going forward, you will see a much more concerted website effort," Godwin said.

An invoice released under a public records request shows Little Rock police paid $1,680 for TipSoft services in the final year it used the program.

TipSoft is advertised as the most popular program of its kind in the world. The company states on its website that more than 600 Crime Stoppers programs, law enforcement agencies and schools use the program, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice.

The program provides encrypted communication services that allow tipsters to remain anonymous and keep confidential information secure.

TipSoft users in Arkansas are the Benton, Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Conway police departments and the Jefferson County and Saline County sheriff's offices, according to the company website.

Bodderij, in an email to Little Rock police, said it was "very common to receive tips that are initially intended for other Crime Stoppers."

It also wasn't unusual for Little Rock police to receive tips meant for other agencies, according to Davis.

One wonders why Davis did not make inquires about the tips coming in to her that were not for Little Rock or the ones coming in from Seattle which might have resulted in discovery of the incorrect link on the Little Rock city webpage.

But that would require some investigative skills right?

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