Local sheriff’s office and schools launch tip-reporting app
In a time when students are much more likely to send a text than a letter, it made sense for the Door County Sheriff’s Office to launch an anonymous tip-reporting app in collaboration with Door County schools.
“[We’re] trying to get the young people to engage and feel like they have an avenue if they’re not comfortable coming to us or the school resource officers face to face,” said Door County Sheriff Tammy Sternard. “It’s not about hiding behind a device; it’s about giving them a way to express some of their concerns.”
In an effort to streamline this kind of communication among the schools, it was important to choose an app that could be used countywide, Sternard said.
The app, called See It, Say It, Send It, went live Nov. 15. It allows students to submit a quick tip – videos, pictures and a brief narrative – or a detailed tip that could include videos, pictures, attachments, person and vehicle information, and a narrative. Sternard emphasized that the app is not designed for emergency situations. Call 911 in the case of emergencies.
The strength of such an app is that tips are all sent to one place: the dispatch center of the sheriff’s office. Staff monitor for tips 24/7 and screen any that are received for appropriate action, Sternard said, whether that’s action from the police or the school.
About concerns that the tattle-tale nature of some students might lead them to abuse the app, Sternard said that anyone can do that already with the anonymous phone lines that have long been in place. The sheriff’s office has not received any tips so far.
The app functions with two-way, real-time communication, so whereas officers would not be able to call back an anonymous tipper on the phone, the app allows them to attempt to contact the person.
“If we find that people are abusing the use of the app, we will address that,” Sternard said. “In talking to the sheriffs that are using it throughout the country, it’s minimal.”
To narrow down the search for the right app, Sternard called other departments that are using similar apps to weigh the pros and cons. It was decided that See It, Say It, Send It would best fit Door County’s needs, Sternard said.
The app is easy to use, works with Apple and Android devices, and is web-based, which means people can submit tips from a phone or computer.
At this point, the staff has tackled the basic function of receiving tips. Now officers are working on creating a way to broadcast messages out to people, Sternard said. That part of the app will be used to notify students, parents and the community if there are school-safety-related issues in the users’ area, she said. The sheriff’s office is looking to test that function in early December.
Though the app is geared toward students, the hope is that it will become a resource for the whole community. Sternard encourages users to download the app in order for the initiative to work.
“We’re trying it,” she said. “I see great value in it, and so do the administrators at the schools. If we try it and it doesn’t work, then we would go back to the drawing board.”