With ‘Hood Hero,’ Wilmington coder wants to fight crime with texted tips

A Wilmington police vehicle.

A Wilmington police vehicle. (Zack Seward/WHYY)

Bradford Wason is standing in downtown Wilmington not far from the site of a midday shooting in April that left one dead.

Wason, a lifelong Wilmingtonian, thinks violent crime is the city’s biggest problem — and he thinks a technology he’s developing could be part of the solution.

It’s called Hood Hero, an anonymous text messaging system aimed at getting people to stop staying quiet on crime. 

“It’s a paradigm,” said Wason, “so we need to kind of change that, and give [people] a gateway to feel that they can be connected to the police and send in a tip without everybody in their community knowing that they’ve just snitched, for lack of a better word.”

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The completely anonymous system connects tips with cops on the beat to create real-time, actionable crime data.

“It can be on any phone,” Wason said. “It’s not just smartphone-based.”

The project is a byproduct of Startup Weekend Delaware, held the first weekend in May.

Wason, who works in digital advertising by day, says Hood Hero’s techy approach to crime fighting has long been a side interest.

“It’s a passion,” said Wason. “I think that our city has this issue. I think it’s something that we need to think about differently than just regular boots on the ground. We’ve tried that, it’s not working, so let’s see how we can empower all our officers.”

Wason says he and his development partner have yet to connect with the police department. Still, they’re hoping to beta test Hood Hero in Wilmington for free. Wason says a handful of city staffers and community leaders have expressed interest. They’re also seeking investors.

For users of the system, Hood Hero is just a number to text. On the police end, Wason is also developing mobile and PC-based interfaces designed to help officers respond quickly.

The Wilmington Police Department currently uses a web-based form for submitting anonymous tips. Requests for information left with the department went unanswered.

Police in Philadelphia already have a text number for tips. When it launched last spring, the number, PPDTIP, was receiving about 200 texts a month.

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