Crimestoppers Launches App For Students To Anonymously Report Gun Violence In The Classroom.
Motivated by the idea that students are more comfortable communicating through social media than by phone, CrimeStoppers has launched a free mobile app specifically for students and teens to report crimes and gun violence they witness at school.
Students in nine Louisiana parishes (including Orleans and St. Tammany) can now download the “Crime Stoppers GNO Safe School” app on an iPhone or Android. It has been thoughtfully designed by Texas-based Anderson Software using an unassuming logo and teen-friendly language.
Using the app, students can anonymously report issues they witness at school before violence or criminal activity escalates.
“Students are not as comfortable making a phone call for a tip—we’ve been knowing that, which is why we launched the app in November,” said Darlene Cusanza, president and CEO of Crimestoppers. “Already through the tips, we have taken weapons off campuses and we reported two suicide threats.”
Crimestoppers connects the app to school districts and schools for reporting. The service is available to schools at no cost.
The app is monitored by Crimestoppers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Crimestoppers reports tips directly to the school, which takes responsibility for investigating and involving authorities if necessary.
Cusanza said while the app is about four months old, a “renewed concern” over school violence in the wake of the Florida high school shooting prompted new outreach and awareness about the Safe School app.
On Tuesday, the group spoke to students at New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School about the app.
“The FBI said that in over 81 percent of school shooting cases, multiple students know about it beforehand, either on social media or being told about it by the possible shooter,” Cusanza said.
“The most important thing we are trying to get across to students is the ‘no snitch’ mentality. The app logo looks like two SS’s—we don’t want it to look like a ‘Crimestoppers’ app,” she said. The app is also password-protected so no one can easily read a tip that a student reported.
“In places where there are programs like an anonymous app, students are more likely to give a tip that leads to prevention,” Cusanza said. ”We react anything we see reported—certainly drugs and bullying. Students say that they want to be part of the solution to end school violence, and by having a voice in the issue moves them forward instead of feeling helpless. The best way to fight is to be proactive.”
Other Crimestoppers initiatives to empower students includes establishing a Teen Leadership Ambassador Program, now offered in 22 schools across nine Louisiana parishes, and offering cash rewards to students for reporting criminal activity.
“It helps when students know there is an option for them to report issues safely and anonymously. We tell students that our staff is monitoring this information and when it comes through, we react immediately,” Cusanza said.
She said the group continues to hold presentations about the Safe School app in Louisiana schools.
“We are encouraging schools to call us do presentations to these kids,” Cusanza said. “If the app is something they are comfortable using, hopefully it can go viral.”