Using Student Ears, Eyes to Stop Crime
"The goal for Crime Stoppers in Schools is to encourage good student citizens, who can safely communicate crime-solving or crime-preventing information and perhaps help prevent a tragedy."
Building on the success of its community programs, Crime Stoppers USA is encouraging schools to set up Crime Stoppers in Schools programs. These programs allow students to anonymously pass on tips to authorities about potential crimes or threats. Included: Tips for starting a Crime Stoppers in Schools programs.
Often students hear their peers in school talk about fights or threats, but fear retribution if they "snitch" on other kids. But Crime Stoppers in Schools, an initiative spun off of the community watch program Crime Stoppers USA, students can report threats or crimes anonymously, possibly avoiding a tragedy.
Elaine Cloyd, president of Crime Stoppers USA, spoke with Education World about how Crime Stoppers in Schools operates, and the types of incidents that are reported.
Education World: How did the idea for Crime Stoppers in Schools come about?
Elaine Cloyd: Following the success and design of Crime Stopper community programs, which began in 1976, the first Crime Stoppers in Schools program was started in a Boulder, Colorado, and high school in 1983. Now, more than 2,000 programs exist in middle and high schools, and community and four-year colleges throughout the nation.
The goal for Crime Stoppers in Schools is to encourage good student citizens, who can safely communicate crime-solving or crime-preventing information and perhaps help prevent a tragedy.
EW: What types of incidents are reported?
Cloyd: A variety of crimes can be committed on a school campus, such as vandalism, theft, graffiti, bomb threats, excessive bullying, arson, presentation of drugs and weapons, and other very violent crimes.
EW: What is the format for a Crime Stoppers in Schools program?
Cloyd: School programs can follow different formats; however, one constant is that students do not come into contact with victims or persons committing crimes. Tips [about potential crimes] are taken in a variety of ways, with the preferred route through an anonymous school safety tips line answered by a school administrator or Crime Stoppers liaison, or through an anonymous district or state hotline.
In schools that have no direct student involvement, information about the Crime Stoppers' program is presented during student orientation, in citizenship or government classes, and through posters or other forms of publicity available at a school. Calls would then be routed through a district or state hotline, or directly to the local community Crime Stoppers program. In many school districts, student boards are appointed for each school, or students serve on a centralized metro board for the entire district. These students promote the program, make presentations and publicize the program, review information about crimes, and determine what type of rewards will be given.
EW: What is the range for the rewards?
Cloyd: Depending on the severity of the crime, rewards for tips can range from $50 to $200 for drugs or weapons on campus. Rewards also can be passes to school activities, movies, or parks, or free school items. For younger students and those reporting less severe crimes, often gift certificates are awarded. Rewards are paid anonymously using a code number. However, the reward is not the main incentive; only about 6 percent of students ever collect the rewards.
EW: Where do the rewards come from?
Cloyd: Rewards come from many places depending whether the reward is money or items such as passes or gift certificates. Crime Stoppers' programs are nonprofit organizations so cash donations are tax-deductible donations. The community Crime Stoppers program often gives the student program seed money. Student boards also raise money from donations from local businesses, Booster Clubs, or PTOs, or by hosting school dances, tournaments of various types, car washes, and all types of other fundraisers. If there is not a student board, the rewards are paid by the local community or state program.
EW: What are some of the other benefits of the program?
Cloyd: As a tool for administrators, Crime Stoppers in Schools addresses the concerns of campus crimes and teaches a proactive, not reactive, approach to administrators, students, parents, and the community by encouraging a safer school environment. Often utilized within the curriculum to teach character development, the program promotes school spirit and pride, and a positive campus image to students. Indirectly, administrators may have a reduced risk of lawsuits due to a proactive approach to crime prevention and a potential check on insurance costs.
For students, in addition to being a way to safely report school crimes anonymously without fear of retaliation, this program encourages the development of responsibility. Students can participate in a valuable extracurricular activity, while they benefit from a reduction in incidents on campus and enjoy an increased sense of security.
Elaine Cloyd, president of Crime Stoppers USA
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