When is a tip, not a tip?

Solving any crime requires the public’s participation. Unfortunately, the public can be “too helpful” and call the police with tips that merely tie up valuable police time while other solid leads languish at the bottom of a paper avalanche.

In the Cedrika Provencher case, the Sûreté du Quebec received approximately 15,000 calls to their hotline in just three months. Only 4,000 of the tips were worth investigating. Add e-mails, letters, interviews and more months to the total and you’ll quickly understand how processing tips can paralyze an investigation.

In Theresa’s case, the number of tips certainly don’t come anywhere near Cedrika’s tip tally but it’s still important to make sure whatever tips we do offer to police have enough information to make them “actionable” and move them up the priority list.

If you think you might have information pertaining to Theresa’s murder, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is it specific? (Who? What? When? Where? And why?)
2. Is it true?
3. Can it be corroborated?

Before passing along information about a crime, try to gather, and remember, as many details as possible. Rumours, ambiguous connections and speculation usually end up wasting time instead of solving crime.

That being said, if all you remember is a detailed snippet of a conversation, a photo or a few letters from a license plate, it may still be enough to establish a connection—especially if Quebec’s law enforcement had text mining software like COPLINK.

What is COPLINK?
Developed in Tucson, Arizona, in 1998, COPLINK analyzes vague pieces of information and finds similarities in order to identify suspects. It searches multiple police databases, and can retrieve information in seconds that once took trained investigators hours, days, even weeks to sort through.

Users can provide facts about an undergoing investigation and the system will find relationships between that information and existing data, providing new leads and avenues for law enforcement organizations to explore. It pulls together clues from arrest reports, jails, citations and crime records and makes them all available with just a few key strokes.

Approximately 550 jurisdictions in the United States already use it with success.

According to Knowledge Computing Corporation, the company that sells the software, “The reason COPLINK has been as successful as it’s been is that 80 percent of the crime is committed by 20 percent of the population. The suspect might not be in your databank but he’s in someone else’s databank…Criminals can commit a crime in two different cities and live in a third city, making information-gathering slow and time-consuming.

For more information on COPLINK, visit http://www.coplink.com/

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