In the last five years, Northland high school students have sent anonymous text messages to alert authorities and school officials, who put the brakes on underage drinking parties, helped troubled teens and stopped potential drug deals.
On Wednesday, organizers with the Text-A-Tip program, which operates in various Northland high schools, said they have merged with the Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline. Under the new partnership, students will still be able to notify their school resource officer, authorities or a school administrator about potential problems or criminal activities.
“We want them (students) to be good stewards of their community,” said Kevin Boehm, Crime Stoppers coordinator.
Students are eligible to receive up to $2,000 in reward money if their tip leads to a felony arrest, Boehm said.
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The program was administered by the Northland Safe School Task Force. Students who spotted trouble sent anonymous text messages using a code word specific to their school. A school resource officer and a school administrator received that text and determined whether appropriate action was needed.
However, authorities only responded during school hours. In the new effort, those messages are routed to the TIPS Hotline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, said Sgt. Steve Taylor with the Clay County sheriff’s office.
“The thing that makes this program successful is the instant access to administrators and cops and the anonymity part where kids can get information to people that need the information,” Taylor said.
Since it was launched, the Text-A-Tip program has grown, and organizers said they needed help managing the effort, keeping statistics and raising operating money. The partnership with the Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline will enable the program to grow and add other schools.
“We haven’t had this program, so we are super excited about it,” said Shiarra Franklin, 17, who attends Liberty High School, which added the program. “In school, kids don’t want to be the spoiler, and this allows kids to help their friends and help the people around them.”