The Text a Tip line battles a street culture that punishes "snitching"
By Michele McPhee
The Boston Herald
BOSTON, Mass. — Boston cops' anonymous text-message tip line has busted at least two murder suspects and popped up hot leads in other high-profile homicides — including the shooting of 8-year-old Liquarry Jefferson — in the two months since the first-in-the nation program was unveiled, the Herald has learned.
"It has performed beyond our wildest expectations. We had no idea it was going to work as well as it has," Boston police Commission Edward Davis said yesterday. "It's a great method by which the community can talk to us without fear of retaliation."
Anonymous tipsters have tapped out some 230 text messages to the Boston Crime Stoppers unit since the line opened June 15, the BPD said. By comparison, the unit averages a paltry 10 phone calls from tipsters a month.
The Text a Tip line, which allows witnesses to tell cops what they know anonymously without saying a word, was meant to battle a street culture that punishes "snitching."
"I believe it is so important to get young people in our city to be a part of a solution to crime, and this new anonymous text messaging tool makes it easier and more hip for them to give information to police about crimes they may hear about or witness," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. "This program makes sense, and it’s encouraging to know we are making progress."
Just two days after the line went up — and minutes after 26-year-old Adam Rich was fatally stabbed in a South Boston barroom — investigators received this anonymous text message: "one man had a blue beater shirt and brown short hair. the other had a white t shirt that was to (sic) big 4 him black jeans and a white and black hat in a cow patt."
The message provided enough information to help cops track the alleged killer, Bernard Piscopo, who has been charged with murder and is currently out on $100,000 bail. He was allegedly the man in the "blue beater"— street slang for a tank top.
In the hours after little Liquarry Jefferson was shot dead in his family's Seaver Street apartment, cops launched a manhunt for three home invaders his mother insisted were the culprits.
But police said text tips soon came in telling them the real shooter was the dead boy's 7-year-old cousin. Police believe the children had been playing with a loaded gun they found in the house.
In one bizarre case, BPD received this text from Minnesota: "Jason Anthony Khemraj has warrants for terrorist threats can be found at — " and gave the address.
The BPD contacted Minnesota authorities, and Khemraj was arrested there within hours. He is currently imprisoned in that state on charges of making terrorist threats, according to a Minnesota Department of Correction Web site.
Just last week, a text message led to the arrest of Cornelius Brown, 33, who was wanted in connection with the July 4 murder of 22-year-old Michael Wiggins.
And text tips have given homicide investigators substantial leads in other homicide cases including the murder of Damien Perry, 28, who was shot dead in Roxbury on Aug. 4; and in the July 12 double slaying of Jeffrey Jones, 42, and Jarrid Campbell, 27, who were killed as they sat in a parked car in Roxbury.
Drug dealers in Charlestown have also been shut down due to anonymous text tips, Davis said.
Janet Connors, who lost her 19-year-old son, Joel Turner, six years ago when he was stabbed to death in a Dorchester house invasion, said anything that promotes witness cooperation is critical.
“I understand why people don’t come forward, I understand the fear. But people need to understand that mothers who have to sit and wait and never have their son or daughter’s case solved is a terrible thing,” Connors said. “To not know who murdered your love one is a terrible thing. But to know and have no one come forward is even more of a terrible thing.”
To reach the BPD anonymously, text the word “TIP” to CRIME (27463) or call 1-800-494-TIPS.
Text tipsters get Boston police the message