ELLSWORTH, Maine — Police departments across the state are battling staffing shortages, which has led many departments to find new and creative ways of getting information about illegal activity.
In Hancock County, it's becoming easier than ever to report crimes and now, you can report crimes without even dialing 911.
"Many people with their busy lives don't want to take the time to provide information, or sometimes, they just don't want to be known," said Hancock County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Patrick Kane.
Now, residents of Hancock County have a new way of reporting crimes, particularly underage and illegal substance use, and they can all be made anonymously.
It's part of the program TIP 411. Tips can be sent through a mobile app called HancockCO Sheriff that is available on the app store and google play. It can also be submitted online through the department's Facebook page, or by sending a text to the number 847-411, with the keyword HCSO to start the message.
The main goal of this app is to prevent underage and illegal substance use. The program has been developed in partnership with Healthy Acadia, who shared a similar mission.
"Something in the community can do to reduce access to substance use," said Healthy Acadia Community Health Director Maria Donahue.
The non-profit Healthy Acadia works to create healthier communities across Hancock and Washington Counties. The group received funding for tip 411 through Maine Prevention Services.
"The earlier that youth start using substances like alcohol and other drugs, the more likely they are to develop problems later in life," said Donahue.
For Chief Deputy Kane, this new tool is the way of the future.
"I think that this is just the tip of the iceberg with technology such as it is," said Kane. "This is going to work not only here, but I think you'll see this grow in Maine and nationally," he added.