Police have a new system for getting anonymous tips from students at Elizabethtown Area High School.
Officer Richard J. Regel, the Elizabethown Police Department officer assigned to work in schools as the school resource officer, described the new system at a recent meeting of the Elizabethtown Rotary Club. The old system, known as Text-a-Tip, and the new system, known as Anonymous Alerts, were both funded by the service club.
“Text-a-Tip was great; Anonymous Alerts is 10 times better,” Regel said.
The Text-a-Tip system was installed when Regel’s predecessor, Rick Farnsler,approached the Rotary Club and said the low-tech system he had for anonymous tips had never been used. That system was a wooden box where students were asked to drop written messages if they had information they were not comfortable sharing in person. Farnsler said nobody used the box and he wanted to use a system more in tune with the way young people communicate today. That led to the Text-a-Tip system, which relayed text messages through a server in Canada and allowed the officer to respond with follow-up questions.
But Regel said the system had to be replaced when the company that offered it stopped supporting it. The new system hasits own smartphone app that people can download to send anonymous tips. (Also, Regel said the wooden box is still in place and still isn’t used.) The new system gets tips for things like drug use, threats to the school or students planning to fight one another. But in addition to crime, there are other problems it tackles. Regel said one girl was being harassed by her classmates because she smelled bad. A social worker looked into the situation and found her family’s home was unclean, then helped the family with the hygiene problem.
Regel said he has gotten tips about two attempts to form gangs at the high school. Thankfully, he said, that has been an easy thing to nip in the bud.
“I just find the girlfriend that’s unhappy with the boyfriend at the time,” Regel said. That girl will provide information about what her boyfriend and his friends are doing.
One student tried to bring in methamphetamines from York; another tried to bring in heroin, Regel said, but they were caught quickly.
“Every one of those kids was arrested within the next month, month and a half,” Regel said.