Smartphones join fight against wildlife crime, pollution

Watch out polluters and wildlife poachers: Your crimes can now be reported to state officials quietly via text message or smartphone app.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife this week unveiled a free smartphone app for Apple and Android phones that allows witnesses to anonymously report wildlife and water pollution crimes – in real time and in great detail. The department can also now take witness reports via anonymous text message.

The CalTIP smartphone app borrows its name from the state’s long-standing phone hotline for environmental crimes, which stands for Californians Turn In Poachers. That tip number, which will continue operating, is (888) 334-2258.

You can anonymously report poaching and pollution crimes by texting location and suspect details using the short code 847411 (or tip411). The text must start with the word “caltip” and may include photographs. State wildlife officers can respond directly, setting up instant text conversation with a witness.

The smartphone app works similarly, enabling instant sharing of photographs and a real-time dialogue with a state wildlife officer. The free app is available from both the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Both the app and the texting service are completely anonymous, as the technology strips all identifying information before wildlife officers see the tips.

Spokesman Patrick Foy said it is important to convey as much detail as possible about the location and suspect, including a physical description and vehicle license plate number, if possible.

“Smartphones are so common today that we’re trying to adjust to make sure we capture all the prospective people we can,” Foy said.

Rewards of as much as $1,000 are available upon successful prosecution of environmental crimes resulting from CalTIP reports.

Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.