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'Text a Tip' program advances

Spot a crime, text message a cop.

Common Council members think a program that would let people text message crime tips to police would spur many tech-savvy individuals to join Buffalo's fight against lawbreakers.

In an 8-0 vote Tuesday, the Council urged Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson to study the feasibility of creating a "Text a Tip" program in Buffalo.

"This program has been extremely successful in Boston (Mass.)," said bill sponsor Bonnie E. Russell of the University District. "Text messaging is seen to be the wave of the future."

Ensuring tipsters' confidentiality would be key. Russell's research has found that steps can be taken to make all incoming text messages anonymous. She's convinced that expanding Buffalo's crime tip hotline to accommodate this new communication mode will encourage the younger crowd to step forward with information.

Gipson is willing to study the possibility, Police Department spokesman Michael DeGeorge said.

But the commissioner needs more information before agreeing to implement the Text a Tip program, DeGeorge added.

Buffalo already has what law enforcers describe as a successful confidential telephone tip line. People are encouraged to call the Police Department at 847-2255 if they have information about crimes.

In its final meeting before the summer recess, the Council also unanimously confirmed Martin F. Kennedy as new assessment and taxation commissioner. Kennedy is a 17-year department veteran who supervises the city's tax exemption office. He will replace Bruna Michaux, who is retiring next week after a 43-year stint in City Hall. Council members lauded Michaux, as did Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, who attended the Council session to talk about Peace Bridge issues.

In other action, the Council took steps to pave the way for construction of a new firehouse on Bailey Avenue near Genesee Street. The long-planned facility will cost $3.9 million, about $600,000 more than initial estimates.


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