Inside Our Schools

Jan 22, 2013 9:42 AM

New Somerset Police Program Targets School Violence Prevention

The Somerset Police Department is launching a new text messaging program that seeks critical information that may help prevent schools violence.

The program allows a direct line to Somerset Police by way of text messaging and web tips. Students are encouraged to submit tips about school violence, bullying, drugs, or other concerns that may affect school safety. Their texts and web tips will be confidential and anonymous.

The program, named "See - Hear - Report" went int effect on Monday and utilizes a Utah company that provides law enforcement with text and web tip solutions. The tips go through different computer servers that strip away personal information and give the sender a unique identifying code as an alias name. That alias and the tip is the only information the police officers receive. Officers can reply to the message, but they will have no idea to whom they are conversing. Likewise, the alias would be the only name officers would know should a reward be offered for certain information.

"Students today are growing up in a digital age. Therefore, it's important for the law enforcement community and our police department to offer different ways to interact with our youth," commented SPD Major Doug Nelson.

Students who don't have a cell phone can navigate to the police department's Facebook page or web site to submit a tip. Those tips utilize a form that's managed by the same company. Just like the text tips, all personal information is removed and the officers only see the tip and the sender's unique code.

The program is the brainchild of Major Nelson, who learned of a similar program in Colorado that targets bullying during an International Association of Chiefs of Police conference. "Students may be apprehensive about divulging sensitive information to an officer face-to-face. Text messaging is a common communication method for them these days and we want to make it easy for them to pass information to us that could save lives," said Nelson.

The Somerset Police Department has been conducting training on active shooter situations for years, but realized its time to address ways of gathering information about potential problems before they escalate to an act of violence.

To text a tip to officers, students should follow three simple steps:

1. Compose a new message to "CRIMES" (274637 on most phones)

2. Include "SOMERSETPD" in the message, along with the tip information

3. Press SEND

The program will cost the police department about $2000 each year. See-Hear-Report will continue to be supplemented by the department's 24-Hour Crime Tip Line at (606) 676-TIPS.

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