New Crime Stopper software making it easier for people to submit - KPTV - FOX 12

New Crime Stopper software making it easier for people to submit tips anonymously

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Outside of a church on North Vancouver Avenue in Portland, 26-year-old Laray Seamster was gunned down in broad daylight.

Nearly two years later to the day, his killers have yet to be found. 

"My will power and determination is to get this case solved," said Seamster's mother Erica West. "Hopefully people have a heart and just come forward. Our family is struggling, we need closure and justice."

Crime Stoppers is still offering a $2,500 dollar cash reward to help detectives solve his murder. Though in a case like this, investigators say witnesses are reluctant to come forward. For that reason, tipsters can remain anonymous.

"Anonymity is paramount, especially to people involved in the criminal underworld. If someone knew they were talking to police, that might put their life at risk," said Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson. "Crime Stoppers exists to keep those people completely anonymous."

Simpson runs the Crime Stoppers of Oregon program in Portland. Just recently, he said the program updated its software to make it even easier for people to submit tips anonymously through their phone, computer, or tablet.

Simpson said agencies across the United States use this same platform, so anyone in a different city who has app on their phone can submit a tip virtually anywhere.

The software also allows investigators to communicate with a tipster in real time.

"It's two-way communication, but it's completely anonymous, it's end to end encryption" said Simpson. "The investigator who gets the tip has no way of knowing who submitted tip, it's literally a number and letters as a reference point."

In the digital age, many believe it's impossible to remain completely anonymous when texting in a tip about a crime. Investigators say the fear of leaving behind a digital footprint sometimes stops a person from calling in.

"I would say for people who are skeptical start small, try it," said Simpson.

FOX 12 decided to do just that, by testing the system.

FOX 12 downloaded the P3 app required to submit an anonymous tip and then texted in using a fake scenario about a shooting. Seconds later, Simpson received that information. He could text back and ask for more information, despite not knowing who he was talking to.

"It's a private company that runs the software," said Simpson. "Tips go in through your smart phone, that company encrypts it, it is sent to the Crime Stoppers agency who then sends it to an investigator. There's no way to trace it back to the individual."

Investigators can however trace information back to a tipster if they aren't careful about specific details they provide.

"If you're worried about a neighbor you saw commit a murder last night, and you say, 'my neighbor is the one who committed the murder,' then certainly it's going to trace back to someone in the area."

Investigators say tips come into the Crime Stoppers hotline every day, and those tips have successfully helped them solve cases.

"Tips come in from as far as Umatilla and Kelso, Salem, Seaside and all over the Portland Metro area. Anyone seeing this story, the Crime Stoppers of Oregon is an agency ready to take your tips anonymously," Simpson added.

One day soon, investigators hope to see a tip that will help them bring closure to Seamster's loved ones.

"It would mean everything to us," said West. "I think a lot of times people are afraid, but this is a community, and hopefully someone will just have the heart to give us what we need."

Seamster's family will be holding a two-year anniversary candlelight vigil this Saturday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. outside of the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. The public is invited to attend.

Investigators stress the Crime Stoppers hotline is only meant for reporting felony crimes like robberies and murders. It's not for reporting homeless camps, nuisance neighbors, or any minor crimes. Those issues go directly to a law enforcement agency.

Crime Stoppers of Oregon offers cash rewards for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in any unsolved felony crime and tipsters can remain anonymous.  Information about any unsolved homicide is eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,500. Information about any other unsolved felony crime is eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000. 

Information learned from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube should be shared as these tips may lead to the identification of a suspect or suspects. Links can be shared anonymously through Crime Stoppers.

Submit an anonymous tip: 

Visit the App Store and download P3 Tips to submit secure and anonymous tips.

Online at https://www.p3tips.com/823 

Call 503-823-HELP (4357)

For more information visit:  http://www.crimestoppersoforegon.com

Copyright 2017 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation.  All rights reserved.

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