Partnership for Success (PFS) Text-A-Tip Program with Steven Eiland (May, 2023)

The Partnership for Success (PFS) grant aims to reduce rates of underage drinking among individuals ages 12–20 through a variety of evidence-based programs. One such program is the Text-A-Tip initiative, which the East Bay Regional Coalition (Region 5) has implemented within all three of its PFS-funded East Bay communities. In this interview, Steven Eiland—Region 5’s PFS Coordinator—discusses what the Text-A-Tip initiative entails, how this initiative has been operationalized within Region 5, some of the short and long-term goals of the program, and the impact that this program has had in terms of reducing and preventing underage drinking within Region 5 communities.

Could you start by introducing yourself and giving us a bit of background regarding the Partnership for Success (PFS) grant and what your role is as the PFS Coordinator for the East Bay Regional Coalition (Region 5)?

My name is Steven Eiland, MPH CPS, and I am the coordinator for East Bay Regional Coalition’s Partnerships for Success (PFS) grant. The PFS grant funds the implementation of evidence-based programs with the purpose of reducing underage drinking among individuals ages 12–20. For Region 5, the grant focuses on reaching 12-20 year-old East Bay residents living in Bristol, Warren, and East Providence.

Through the PFS Grant, the East Bay Regional Coalition partnered with law enforcement to implement an evidence-based strategy called Text-A-Tip within three East Bay communities. Could you tell us a bit about what the Text-A-Tip strategy entails and how it aims to prevent underage drinking?

The text-a-tip program allows the community to have anonymous and open communication with local law enforcement. When these lines are available and well publicized, residents will utilize the line to report all manner of issues within the community. This includes direct reports of alcohol or drugs being used or sold to youth. Other tips can also lead to substance use/misuse prevention when they are followed up, such as a noise complaint revealing underage drinking at a party. The line has also provided other benefits to the community such as revealing the location of suspects with active warrants or public safety issues.

When and why did the East Bay Regional Coalition choose to implement this particular PFS strategy and how has the Text-A-Tip initiative been operationalized within the region?

One of the first things we did when planning the PFS grant was to approach local law enforcement and ask them, “What do you need to reduce underage drinking?” We began with Bristol police who were our mid-sized community, and they expressed interest in setting up an anonymous tip line. We jumped at the opportunity, but we did not immediately roll the tip line out to the other Eat Bay communities as we wanted to make sure it would be successful and have an opportunity to identify any potential pitfalls before reaching out to the other departments. The line exploded with use, and we immediately began to receive some really good tips that police were able to follow up with. The Warren police department asked the Bristol police for more information and approached us about collaborating on the tip line. About six months later, Warren began to implement their own tip line and undergo training for the line.

How does the tip line work? How are tips addressed once they’ve been received?

The tip line is easy to use by design. We use a program called tip411 which provides service across the country, and a tip line app was created and put into place for each of the communities implementing the tip line. This app allows users to report tips to the police as well as receive emergency alerts. We understand however that not everyone has a smart phone, so for those without smart phone access or those who just don’t want the app, they can text the specific keyword for their department (for example, “EPPOLICE”) to 847411, add a space, type in their tip information, and hit send.

With either method, the tip411 servers scramble the tipsters identification information, so that they remain completely anonymous. Police are even able to respond to the anonymous tipster to ask for more information, receive photos, and more. Police have software to help them manage the tips, send follow ups to the tipster to report the results of the tip, and forward information to other departments when the tip is from outside their jurisdiction. We have also received some tips about things like school bullying that law enforcement have been able to forward over to school administration for follow up.

How does law enforcement work with the Region 5 PFS program on this effort?

Law enforcement has been great with handling the tips. Each month, they share with us the number of tips received and some general information about each tip. This lets us know the general category and type of tip, but not information that could identify who the tip was about or details that could interfere with an investigation.

Currently, we continue to support law enforcement by raising awareness of the program through marketing and outreach.

How is the program promoted, and where can people learn more about it?

We’ve reached residents through newspapers, social media, internet advertising, direct mailers, radio, flyers, and tabling at community events allowed us to talk directly to residents. Additional information can also be found for each community at

What are some of the outcomes of the program? Could you tell us a bit about what the program’s impact has been thus far in terms of preventing underage drinking within Region 5 communities?

Thus far, we have received over 1,800 tips! Roughly 5% of the tips are related to drugs or alcohol. Many time the tips can take months of investigation before we see results. However, once the investigation leads to an arrest, law enforcement is quick to let us know if the line was involved. One example was a tip about drugs being sold on school grounds. This started an investigation that led to the arrest of the person selling drugs. Another tip came from a father who found his teen with alcohol. This tip began an investigation that led to the identification of a convenience store owner who sold directly to kids from the back of his store, which was not even a licensed alcohol vendor.

What are some of the long-term goals of the program?

Our goal has been to expand the program throughout East Bay communities and increase usage. Since the beginning of the program, we have managed to bring the tip line into usage within all three of the PFS-funded communities in the East Bay and we average about 50 tips per month. We are now investigating the viability of expanding the program into our fourth East Bay community as well.

Are there any ways that folks involved in substance use prevention and mental health promotion work in RI can help to support the Text-A-Tip initiative? Are there any other messages regarding this initiative that you would like to share with prevention providers throughout the state?

Our program is moving into a sustainability phase as we find additional resources to continue funding the tip lines and supporting awareness of the program. We encourage any of our partners to share information about the tip lines on social media whenever possible.

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