By Amy Stewart
Californians now have a new option for anonymously reporting poachers and polluters to the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The department has launched a pilot program that allows tipsters to text information and photographs to the Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) program via “tip411.”
Users must text to the phone number 847411; in the message line, they have to type “Caltip,”followed by their message. Wildlife officers can then respond directly to the text and have an anonymous two-way conversation with the tipster.
CDFW is simultaneously releasing a CalTIP smartphone app that also allows the public to anonymously share tips and communicate with officers. The app is available for free on the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
The poaching of California wildlife is big business, second only to the illegal drug trade in black market profits, according to a 2010 California Department of Fish and Game report. Some of the most commonly poached animals in California include deer, bear, antelope, elk, abalone, sturgeon, salmon, crab, and lobster.
Tip411 and the CalTIP app can also be used to inform the CDFW about cases of pollution, including from agriculture, household waste, or industrial spills.
“We believe the public is our greatest law enforcement resource,”said CDFW Lt. Michael Milotz, CalTIP coordinator, in a press release. “Tip411 and the CalTIP App will give us another tool to combat pollution and the unlawful take and commercialization of California’s wildlife.”
In addition to texting and using the app, the public can still submit tips on the CDFW’s website and by calling their 24/7 phone number for confidential witnesses, 1-888-334-2258. The program is funded by the fines from wildlife violators and polluters. After the two-month pilot period, the CDFW will analyze the usage data from tip411 and the CalTIP app to determine if they will be permanently added to the CalTIP program.