A tip line has been established in an effort to more strongly combat illegal activity on the Allegheny National Forest.
While all emergencies should still be reported to 911, according to a press release from the ANF, the new tip line (814) 927-5757 has been established to report non-emergency or suspected illegal activity on the forest. The line is automated, but callers can reach a receptionist during regular business hours.
"There were several reasons the tip line was created," said Jason Haberberger, senior officer on the ANF. "First and foremost was to make it easier for the public to report criminal activity in their National Forest."
The new line should also make the process easier for ANF law enforcement.
"Previously, if people wanted to report various incidents they were required to call one of three officers and/or one of four law enforcement personnel," he explained. "This often caused confusion and led to people not following through with their report. Having one central number makes it easier for the public to contact us."
According to the release, some examples of items that can be reported include, but are not limited to: marijuana cultivation, methamphetamine production or dump site, poaching, illegal motor vehicle use, timber or other forest product theft, pollution, vandalism and dumping.
Another benefit of the line is anonymity.
"It gives them (citizens) the opportunity to remain anonymous which is often what they desire," he said of the line. "Once reported, the information is then directed to the agent assigned to that particular area of the forest."
Haberberger said that ANF law enforcement officials, "work all hours of the day and any day of the week. However, we are not considered a 24-hour law enforcement response agency given our number of personnel."
Because of that, he reiterated the importance of calling 911 for emergencies. "Our cooperators and local law enforcement can and do respond to emergencies and other various incidents," he said.
"The goal of the tip line is to receive more information from the public," he said.
Noting that the ANF spans four counties and 500,000 acres, Haberberger said, "While our law enforcement personnel are top notch, it is unfeasible to think that we can be everywhere all of the time. This phone line will increase our 'eyes and ears' in the woods and give people that may have always said 'I don't want to get involved!' a chance to steer us in the right direction and to do so anonymously."