Los Angeles -- Angelenos who want to provide anonymous crime tips to the Los Angeles Police Department can do so via cell phone text message and also on the department's Web site, beginning today.
LAPD detectives are hoping the systems encourage anyone with information on the murder of sheriff's Deputy Juan Escalante or the serial killer dubbed the Grim Killer to come forward.
Tipsters can send a text message to CRIMES -- 274637 -- then type LAPD and their message, which is routed through a national system and sent to Los Angeles police. Callers will receive a reply with an alias that can be used if officers need additional information.
"Far too often, victims and witnesses are too afraid to come forward out of fear of retaliation. Today, we're changing that," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The text message system, which is already used by New York and Boston, will cost the city of Los Angeles $2,000 a year. Anonymous tips can also be sent by logging onto www.lapdonline.org. and clicking on WebTip.
"Both of these systems will go directly to LAPD's regional crime center, which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An officer or detective there will receive that information and either do a follow-up on it or route it to the investigative entity that will be responsible for the investigation of that crime," said Capt. Joel Justice.
Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said the systems could provide a break in the murder case of Escalante. The deputy was killed Aug. 2 in front of his family's home in Cypress Park. "We believe that there are people in the public who have information who have not come forward because of various factors and we are hoping that somebody watching this broadcast will, because of the assurance of anonymity, be able to text us or give us information via the Web site that will lead to an arrest here," Beck said.
Detectives are also looking for a serial killer believed to be responsible for at least 11 murders in South Los Angeles over a 23-year span. The Grim Sleeper is likely to be a man in his mid-50s who frequents prostitutes and has a history of violence against women, Beck said.
"We need more clues than we have now," he said. "We will solve this crime but we would rather solve it sooner rather than later."