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Ohio hotline spurs crime tips

| Sunday, March 10, 2013, 5:42 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state Highway Patrol says its increased efforts to crack down on drug trafficking and other crimes are paying off, with more calls to its revamped hotline and greater use of its criminal intelligence unit, which follows up on tips and helps other law enforcement agencies.

The state introduced an easier-to-dial hotline, #677, to replace the old 1-877-7-PATROL about a year ago, encouraging travelers to call not only when they need help or see an impaired driver, but to report tips on crimes such as drug activity and human trafficking. The patrol says it's getting more than 4,000 calls per month statewide, and while it doesn't keep statistics on the topics of those calls, it has begun trying to track more specifically how many come through the hotline.

“It has exceeded every expectation, both in the number and the quality of tips that we're getting,” said Col. John Born, the patrol's superintendent. He said the hotline has helped lead to international investigations, though he wouldn't discuss specifics.

As more drug tips come in, the criminal intelligence unit has grown from two analyst positions to eight, and requests for its service more than doubled, said Capt. Brenda Collins, who oversees the round-the-clock Columbus hub that includes that unit, dispatchers and commanders.

She said publicity about the hotline and successful cases helped spread the word about criminal patrol efforts and prompted more tips to local posts or the hotline advertised on trooper vehicles.

Dozens more signs are being added this year at rest stops and along roads in areas considered to have high drug activity.

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