CPD asks students to text tips

September 9, 2008 9:20:38 AM PDT
The Chicago Police Department is unveiling a high-tech plan to stop the violence in the city.Officials are encouraging Chicago Public Schools students to text police when they feel threatened.

This is a response to the growing number of public school students who have been killed by gun violence. The idea to ask students to text message police with tips is already being used in other police departments around the country. But this is part of what Chicago police are dubbing "Operation: Protect Children."

The message being sent by police and school officials was pretty clear Monday: gun violence in Chicago is taking too many young lives and it has to stop.

"Whether it's two young girls last week or two more boys this weekend, the psychological impact is unimaginable," said Arne Duncan, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

To try and counter some of that violence, Superintendent Jody Weis unveiled Monday Operation: Protect Children, which among other things assigns additional officers to high-risk schools to protect students' passage to and from school. Officers will also be deployed during afterschool programs and at CTA bus and train transfer stops during student commute times.

But, the most innovative of the steps announced Monday is one that asks students to be part of the solution by doing something most already do on a regular basis, text message.

"The children have to stand up too. I would ask all, send it to us, it will be anonymous. We need the information. Point us in the right direction," said Weis.

Under the pilot program, any student with a tip for police can send a text message with the word CPD followed by the tip itself to CRIMES or 274637.

At least one student at Dyett High School Monday seemed wary of ratting on fellow classmates.

"I think the biggest fear from students is that it will come back to you and your life will be in danger. If we have a guarantee that it is an anonymous tip and we can't be found out I think we'll use it," said Kelia Malone, high school student.

The program is being called TEXT2TIP. It is being tested at 10 public high schools: Dyett, Douglass, Gage Park, Harper, Sullivan, Crane, Phillips, Richards, Hirsch and Fenger. In addition, CPS announced that 25 more schools will get security camera systems.

As an incentive for students to use this, each sender will receive a confirmation receipt with an ID number in it. If the tip results in an arrest, the student may then use that number to call back and collect on a $1,000 reward. It seems the biggest obstacle that police will have to overcome is convincing students is that the tips will truly be anonymous.


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