Worried About Your School Culture? How to Start a Bullying Prevention Program

By Caralee Adams, weareteachers.com

With research suggesting as many as one in three U.S. students are bullied at school, many educators are eager to find ways to make their buildings safe. Bullying affects not only the person being bullied but also the bully and bystanders, creating an environment in which it’s difficult to learn and succeed.

When setting up a bullying prevention program, experts says it’s important to have strong leadership from the top along with grassroots buy-in. Programs don’t have to cost a lot of money. It can take time and personnel to set up policies and reporting mechanisms, but a committed team can make progress and the effort is worth it.

Here are eight things to consider when embarking on a bullying prevention program:

1. Be comprehensive.

Bullying is a complex issue that emerges in homes, schools and communities as kids model adult behavior. Efforts to address it should be developmentally appropriate and include all invested parties. Jessica Toste, assistant professor in the college of education at the University of Texas in Austin, suggests asking for input from teachers from different grade levels and content areas, administrators, mental health professionals, students, other school staff members and perhaps a parent or community member. It may start with a big assembly, but the conversation needs to continue in the classroom with teachers, among student groups, and at home with families to build trusting relationships at all levels.

2. Accentuate the positive.

Rather than anti-bullying, frame the effort as one that promotes a positive school culture and acceptance. “The majority of teachers and administrators want their schools to be environments that are safe and positive and affirming for their students,” says Toste. In addition to academic skills, schools are increasingly seeing the value of promoting social-emotional learning – teaching kids how to regulate their emotions, demonstrate compassion, and accept people from different backgrounds and cultures. With that climate as the foundation, bullying can become less of an issue.

3. Commit to the long term.

Research shows that for bullying prevention efforts to work, schools should commit to programs for the long-term. “It’s something that needs to be in place regularly because these aren’t issue that we clean up and then everything is better. They are issues with humans interacting and kids learning,” says Toste. One example of an ongoing effort is the Reaching Out with Character and Kindness—or ROCK—program at Keller Independent School District in northern Texas, now entering its fourth year. ROCK is both proactive, with staff and student training, as well as reactive, with a process to report and investigate bullying incidents, says Laura Lockhart, coordinator of student services at Keller. The steering committee is a standing committee that recognizes the importance of committing to the long-term culture. “Bullying is not going away after doing one exciting assembly. It’s something that is deeper than that,” says Lockhart. “Reaching out with character and kindness is just part of who we want to be.”

4. Customize to fit your needs.

The committee at Keller worked together to come up with a mission and vision for ROCK. Students helped come up with the acronym and logo. “Whenever you get something out of a box, it doesn’t meet all of the unique needs of your community,” says Lockhart. “It was very important that it was designed with Keller ISD in mind … getting as many voices involved was crucial.”

5. Get buy-in from the cool kids.

Bullying is often linked to social status and is perpetrated by some of the most popular kids in school. Paul Coughlin, who speaks about bullying in schools and is the founder of Medford, Oregon-based nonprofit The Protectors, says any efforts to stem bullying need to include kids who are in positions of power and hold up a mirror to show the reality of what they are doing. “Many of these kids are aware they are being cruel, but many are not aware of the extent of their cruelty,” says Coughlin. “Unfortunately, they don’t have the necessary empathy and sympathy for the child that they are bullying.” Sometimes showing bullies a video of another bullying incident and explaining that what they are doing is similar can resonate, suggests Coughlin.

6. Make a splash.

Messages that promote a positive school culture need to be visible in classes, hallways and in the community. At Keller ISD, a special merchandise committee sells fun items, such as bracelets and T-shirts, with the ROCK logo to promote the brand and program, says Lockhart. The communications committee makes sure ROCK is talked about on Twitter and through newsletters. Experts add that free materials are available to distribute from websites such as StopBullying.gov.

7. Get a handle on the problem.

Consider surveys of students to truly evaluate the school climate and effectiveness of programs, suggests Toste of the University of Texas. Ask how students feel about safety and if they have someone in the building they feel they can go to if they are in need. Compare results before and after initiatives have been launched to fine-tune the work.

8. Set up a good reporting system.

Setting up a process to report and track bullying can be a powerful tool, experts suggest. To make sure the response to bullying is appropriate, Keller ISD set up an investigation process aimed at getting the entire story so the solution can be informed and keep everyone safe, says Lockhart. Schools also may want to consider an anonymous reporting system, suggest Coughlin. Some apps, such as STOPit, can make reporting easier and cut down on bullying.

As for the future, Coughlin predicts the bullying landscape will get worse with the lack of civility in broader society and with negative politics this campaign season. Still, it will get better in pockets of resistance and with support from concerned parents, he says. Schools that get it right and become known for taking the issue seriously can find it’s an opportunity to attract students, adds Coughlin.

“You can’t educate well with the presence of bullying,” says Coughlin. “Having the presence of bullying in the classroom and trying to teach is like having a gas leak. There are going to be a few kids who can do it, but they are going to be surviving, not thriving. They are just trying to make it through the day.”

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Dickson school violence prevented: Student tips avert assaults, police say

“An emphasis of ours this year is ‘See Something -- Say Something,’ which encourages students to report items to authorities. This has been coupled with our STOPit App, which allows students to anonymously report items through the social media platform.”
male testimonial icon
Steve Sorrells
Director of Student Services

In the first incident last month, police said a student informed a school resource officer at a football game of a threat of violence made by another student. The SRO notified investigators who again located and interviewed the student, who was cited in a juvenile court petition.

Police said in an incident the next day, a student informed a parent of a threat to commit violence by a classmate and the parent notified school officials who called police. Investigators again found the threat credible enough to seek a juvenile court petition.

“The fact that we were able to stop potential acts of violence in the schools before they happened is the direct result of students being brave enough to tell an adult about the threats,” said Dickson Police Department Chief Jeff Lewis. “In all three of these incidents, a student heard something and told either a parent, grandparent or school resource officer, who then took the steps necessary for law enforcement to investigate the threats and stop a potential violent act. This will always be our first and best line of defense.”

DCHS administrators and Dickson County schools officials worked with law enforcement to ensure the safety of all students.

Director of Student Services Steve Sorrells said the school system not only stresses the importance of reporting potential issues, but is utilizing technology to give students another way to advise school officials.

“An emphasis of ours this year is ‘See Something — Say Something,’ which encourages students to report items to authorities,” Sorrells said. “This has been coupled with our StopIt app, which allows students to anonymously report items through the social media platform.”

Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks added that the school system and local law enforcement work well together to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.

“We are so appreciative of the relationship that the school system has with both the City of Dickson Police Department and the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office, who assist us in working through situations such as these,” Weeks said. “Safety is our first priority and our first responsibility to our staff and our students.”

Because the records of juvenile court are sealed by law, it is not known what legal actions were taken against the three students cited for making the threats. School system policy states that once the case is adjudicated, the students who return to the school system face assignment to New Directions Academy for a term to be decided by the Disciplinary Hearing Authority.

“Students should take any threat of violence by a classmate seriously and report it immediately to a parent, teacher, administrator or school resource officer,” said Lewis. “This is one of the top reasons the City of Dickson has been committed to placing an SRO in every school in the city. These officers can develop a relationship of trust with students who will then be more willing to come forward with any potential threats.”

The Dickson County School System’s Student Handbook says threats to the safety or property of others are “so serious that they usually require immediate administrative actions, which result in the immediate removal of the student from the school, and/or the intervention of law enforcement authorities and/or action by the Board of Education.” Threats of violence constitute a Level IV disciplinary violation.

Curious why over 4,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

Hideki Matsui, Nippon Foundation & STOPit Japan’s “Stand By You” Project

In partnership with a number of organizations including the Nippon Foundation, STOPit Solutions is proud to announce a new joint project out of our Japan office: Stand By You (#standbyyou).

STOPit Supporter, Hideki Matsui, alongside STOPit Japan’s CEO, Daizaburo Taniyama, are leading the Stand By You project which focuses on eradicating bullying in Japan through messages of well-known athletes, creators, and artists.

STOPit Solutions Hideki Matsui STOPit Solutions Hideki Matsui Daizaburo Taniyama
(L to R) STOPit Japan's CEO, Daizaburo Taniyama, with Hideki Matsui
In the first Stand By You video release, Shingo Kunieda, Yukari Kinga, Masami Ihara, Fumino Sugiyama, and Tomoaki Imai join the fight against bullying.

The Stand By You project will be releasing content over the next few months and include messages from other globally influential people via YouTube here.

Hideki Matsui STOPit Solutions Stand by you
On set with Hideki Matsui; Kiara Lizuka behind the camera

In 2018, Hideki joined longtime STOPit supporter, Derek Jeter (Turn2Foundation), in publicly advocating STOPit and its mission of empowering people to speak up through anonymous reporting.

Now it is time for me to support others who are having a hard time. STOPit can provide the means through which to help those suffering because of bullying. That’s why I support STOPit. We cannot forgive bullying. Be brave and please take a stand against bullying along with me,” Hideki said in a previous statement.

Derek Jeter Hideki Matsui STOPit Solutions

 The official press release out of STOPit Japan can be found here. Any media inquiries can be directed to marketing@stopitsolutions.com. 

Conversations With STOPit Solutions: Interview with Maurine Molak of David’s Legacy Foundation

“You’re a tattle tail.”

The term brings back memories from childhood. Arguments with friends. Maybe siblings. But do you remember all of the times you were called a tattle tail when you weren’t actually being one? Sometimes, speaking up about inappropriate things going on is the unpopular vote amongst your peers; however, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t still be said. In fact, quite the opposite. 

Empowering others to speak up is something that today’s guest devotes much of her time and energy to. In our most recent podcast, we are joined by Maurine Molak, the founder of David’s Legacy Foundation. David’s Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying, as well as other forms of bullying.

During our interview, Maurine speaks about how David’s Legacy Foundation is affecting education, legislation, and legal action as well as what it means to be a “Upstander.”

Listen above and be sure to email us if you or someone you know would like to be featured on our podcast.

For more information on David’s Legacy Foundation, please visit: www.davidslegacy.org

Putnam County Schools Launching Anonymous Bullying Tipline App


Classes begin Thursday for students in Putnam County, and from day one, school administrators are cracking down on bullying.

They’re doing it through an app that gives students a platform to report things anonymously.

Bullying in the classroom often transcends in this day and age to social media.

Phyllis Atkinson is a grandmother of students in the Putnam County school system and worries about other children being harassed by their peers.

“They grow up and feel like they don’t matter,” Atkinson said. “(they) go inward and not want to have any socialization at all, or do something maybe worse.”

Putnam County Schools are on a mission to empower and protect students with new technology that could stop bullying in its tracks.

The “Stop It” app is a tool for students to anonymously report issues in or out of school, whether it’s cyberbullying and harassment or threats of violence or self-harm.

“We want kids to feel comfortable here, so this is a way for them to let us know what’s going on,” Matt Shock, Winfield Middle School Principal, said.

School leaders say students may submit the anonymous tip in the privacy of their bedroom, in their car, or anywhere, to make a report about the things going on in their life.

Administrators built a profile for each county school with its own identifying code that students will receive on the first day of school. From that point on, they can anonymously send information, including pictures and videos, to designated staff members at each school.

“Those folks are able to get that information immediately, and there can be two-way communication between the person who submitted it and the administrator,” Danielle Gillispie, school administrator, said.

Staff members are then able to log information and manage incidents in a back-end system that can be referenced at a later time.

“We can investigate it, try to get to the bottom of it, and kids need to be able to communicate that,” Shock said.

The app will officially launch Thursday in Putnam County Schools, and while there will likely be a few kinks to work out, school officials think the app is a proactive approach to a nationwide issue.

“It’s another level of protection we can give our students and get conversations rolling on how to keep our schools safe,” Gillispie said.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. Anybody that sees anything going on, they don’t have to be afraid. You’re helping that friend to not go through what you went through,” Atkinson said.


Bristow Public Schools Adds New Security Systems

Bristow, O.K., Aug 9, 2019 (News On 6) – Students in Bristow head back to school on Monday, and should be safer than ever. District leaders said they spent the last two months installing new security systems in every building.

“We feel safe here in our community, but we want to make sure we don’t have one or two unfortunate things,” Assistant Safety Director Lawrence Seachris said.

Seachris said their new visitor verification system is called School Safe I.D.

“Any visitors that we have check in to these vestibules, they’ll use a state-issued I.D.,” he said.

After you scan your I.D., the system automatically checks a national database for sex offenders. If and only when you’re cleared, the double doors to the school will unlock.

“It ensures that we know who’s coming in and out of our building to ensure all our students are safe,” Seachris said.

Seachris admitted the system takes a little more time than a sign-in sheet, but after the first time, he said you can add your visitor pass to your phone and skip the checkpoint next time.

“It takes a little more time the first time, but after that, it gets better,” he said. “And it’s worth the time because it ensures safety.”

Seachris said in a time where there is so much fear surrounding school safety, the extra few minutes are worth it to the district, and to parents, if it means stopping someone who isn’t welcome.

“If we can do anything we can to ensure that everybody’s safe, any extra measure is welcome,” he said.

As another safety measure, Seachris said the district asking parents and students to download an app called “Stop It” that allows them to anonymously report anything they see that’s suspicious.

Schools getting new security measures

Cookeville, T.N., Aug 10, 2019 (Herald Citizen) – School resource officers will be patrolling the halls of all Putnam County schools this year, and a more intensive screening of school visitors is in the works.

The school board this month approved a $27,642 contract for the Ident-A-Kid Visitor Management System, which will replace the practice of manually signing in visitors to the schools.

“We looked at three different vendors and Ident-A-Kid was the one that everyone preferred,” said Deputy Director of Schools Corby King, adding that he hopes to have the new system in place by Labor Day.

King said visitors will still have to show a photo ID at the school’s front door in order to gain access. From there, they will go to the office to complete the process.

“When you go in, the system scans your ID, checks it against the sex offender registry, and then takes a picture of you and prints it on the visitor label,” he said. “It uses the name from your driver’s license, but it takes a current picture.”

He said the system also allows more detailed information to be kept about visitors.

“You can import what they call a no-go list, so if parents have some type of order of protection against another parent or someone else — and this happens a lot —then you enter that information or update it in the system,” he said.

Funding for the new system comes from recurring money allocated by the state of Tennessee after the completion earlier this year of the first-ever statewide assessment of school facilities and safety procedures.

Putnam County also received a one-time allocation of $260,000 to address security issues identified in the individual school site surveys.

King said $109,000 of that allocation was used to update cameras and video surveillance systems, and $76,000 was put toward a program that provides digitized maps of school floor plans to emergency responders.

Another $60,000 was budgeted for the purchase of bollards — concrete barriers that are installed to prevent vehicles from driving into school buildings.

“A lot of schools have those scheduled to be installed over fall break,” King said. “We weren’t the only school system doing this, so some of the local companies were kind of overwhelmed, I think, with some of the requests.”

King said the barrier type may vary.

“The principals and SROs are working together to determine what they want,” he said. “Some are getting the sphere bollards, some are getting post bollards, and some are getting big concrete planters. They all serve a similar purpose.”

In addition, King said the school system has adopted a new tip line for students and parents to report suspicious activity.

“Last year, the tip line that we had was Safe Schools Alert, and we just really weren’t happy with that product,” King said. “It seemed a little bit clunky, so people just didn’t use it that much.”

This year, the schools are using a different vendor called Stopit Solutions.

“Several districts in Tennessee are using it. White County, Jackson County, Warren County and Rutherford County, have gone to Stopit,” he said.

He said the system uses a smartphone app or a website.

“You can click the app and submit a report that goes straight to the school administration, whether it be bullying, harassment or whatever,” he said. 

King said serious threats are also relayed to 911 and law enforcement.

“We always emphasize ‘if you see something, say something,’ ” he said.

Additional security improvements will be included in the application for this year’s round of state security grants, which is due by Sept. 20 and will be based on updated site surveys being conducted this month.

Glynn County school district wants to ban bullies with smartphone app

By Ashley Harding

Once the report comes in, Lewis said, intervention is available for the student being bullied, and the student who is the bully. 

“They need services to find out why they’re doing that,” Lewis said. “So, it’s not just reacting to the behaviors that are unacceptable. It’s looking at that particular child and saying, ‘Hey, why do you feel like you need to be a bully to someone else?'”

If someone ever hesitates to report bullying they’ve witnessed against another student, Lewis hopes all students will remember to do what is right.

“It’s never wrong to do the right thing,” Lewis said. “And the best scenario would be that, ‘How would you feel? What would you want somebody to do for you?’ If you want somebody to speak up for you, if you want someone to help you, you are that person for someone else.”

The “STOPit” app is available through Google Play or the Apple App store. The district wants students to know they can always report bullying the old-fashioned way, by going to a trusted adult. 

To learn more about the “STOPit” app, click here to see the instructional video provided by the Glynn County school system

Lubbock Area Districts Highlight Safety, Security Going Into New School Year

Security cameras, extra officers on duty and upgraded protocols are among the many steps towards a safer school year that administrators have been working on all summer and are now ready to put into practice as students return to school Wednesday at Lubbock ISD and Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Aug. 19 at Frenship ISD.

Lubbock ISD

The Lubbock Independent School District has been upgrading many of its security and safety protocols over the last few months, with a lot of work being put into their visitor system and ways to report information about a dangerous situation anonymously through their STOPit app. Their visitor management system, Lobby Guard, has been upgraded with new kiosks on the campuses, and visitors will need an official form of identification to be allowed into the building.

“We will be working with our parents who don’t have state-issued IDs to get them key tags so they’re able to check in to Lobby Guard as well,” said Stacy Carter, director of school safety and security for Lubbock ISD. “We also have STOPit now, so anyone across the community can report concerns through the web or app.”

There have also been upgrades to the facilities that will continue with construction through the year. All campuses will be able to alert the police department by the push of a button and get new public address systems, which will help send alerts through the campus and district if an incident is occurring. There are different options for the alerts, such as bus accident, and the alert will send updated rosters to teachers electronically to account for everyone in the building.

Another precaution being taken this year is being sure staff members and administrators have been trained for trauma-informed care and mental health first-aid, as well as having a threat assessment team on every campus and a district-level assessment team. The school district has also started piloting social and emotional lessons into the curriculum in 11 schools this year, including suicide and bullying prevention.

“If a student or staff member makes a threat to hurt themselves or others, we have an assessment we can do to determine the next steps that need to be taken to help that individual,” said Carter. “The classes are a lot of teaching kids how to handle social situations and their emotions, things like how to have a conversation and take turns.”

Along with the usual lockdown drills and keeping open communication with the community, Carter said their goal is to meet every need for students and faculty on campus and to act before a tragedy can occur.

“Our goal is to meet physical, social, emotional and psychological safety of both students and staff,” said Carter. “Our focus it to be proactive and preventative and that’s where the community is going to help us quite a bit. Our motto going into this year is ‘See something, say something, do something, stop it,’ because we can’t stand by and watch things anymore.”

Lubbock-Cooper ISD

Since the Lubbock-Cooper ISD board approved having a certified peace officer at a every campus a few years ago, the security measure has added ten full-time officers and three additional officers for extra events or as needed.

“We try to cover as much as we can, when we can,” said Rick Saldana, chief of police for LCISD. “Our door system has controlled access and our officers are checking them two to three times during their shift and perimeter checks.”

There are video systems throughout the district and on each campus that are able to scan inside and outside, and all doors will remain locked during school hours. Each main door leads into a security vestibule, not directly into hallways, and front office administrators will run visitors through a quick check in the Raptor monitoring system. The protocols are a way for anyone on campus to take responsibility for suspicious activity.

“All our employees take part in our security,” said Saldana. “The maintenance crew, teachers, administrators – we all work together, we try to stay vigilant and on top of things. Everyone does their part and at the end of the day, it’s about keeping kids safe and providing a safe environment where kids can come to school and feel safe learning and teachers can feel safe teaching.”

Officers in the district are taking a refresher course on mental health training as well after doing so two years ago. Saldana said the course enhances the officers ability to pick out something that seems unusual, and that all the employees have a good intuition about saying when something doesn’t seem right.

The important thing, said Saldana, was to always be ready to change security tactics depending on how society changes. By staying ahead, Saldana said they can be successful at making parents comfortable.

“As the bad guys change their tactics, we have to change ours too, so we’re constantly trying to stay not just one but two or three steps ahead and that’s where we plan to stay,” said Saldana. “We want our kids to come to school and feel comfortable. We don’t want them thinking, ‘Is this going to be the day?’ Yeah it stays in the back of your mind, but we’re here to educate kids, love them, and provide a good learning environment.”

Frenship ISD

A big key in tackling safety for Frenship ISD was working on any blind spots that security might miss. Over the summer, the camera system has been upgraded to a more extensive measure that allows officers and school administrators to access any camera on any campus from their desk or home if a situation needs to be monitored immediately.

“It’s a force multiplier,” said Roy Bassett, chief of police for Frenship ISD. “One officer can truly monitor numerous hallways of whatever school they’re assigned to from their desk. They can monitor that and look for problems themselves and hopefully cut off things before they get serious.”

Frenship adopted the standard response protocol which Bassett says can handle several situations such as a lockdown or a lockout, which will lock students in the school to avoid a problem outside. This protocol revealed that students at the high school who have classes in the outer buildings on campus would not be secure, so security changed that by adding a new fence outdoors.

“If kids were trying to change classes during a lockout, they would have to leave the security of the building in order to get to a new secure position,” Bassett said. “So now, all high school students are able to move from one building to another, they will be outside in a secure area.”

Officers for Frenship ISD are also about to attend a mental health peace officer certification course so they can all be certified by the time school starts. Bassett said safety is everyone’s job on campus.

“We’re out there to be a physical presence and reminder, but it starts at home and with the students,” said Bassett. “See something, say something is not just a clever saying, it’s truly the way we need to be in this day and age.”

Want to report a crime tip in Camden? There’s an app for that.

By Carly Wanna

PHILADELPHIA, PA, July 23, 2019 (Philadelphia Inquirer) – Several times a week, the Camden County Police Department asks the public for help. Police post on social media requesting tips on a missing person, fugitive, or suspect in a crime.

Citizens can report what they know about criminal activity in the city of Camden via a variety of platforms –– the department tipline, a phone call, and, now, texts from a smartphone.

On April 18, Camden’s police force became the second department in New Jersey to contract with STOPit Solutions, which provides an app that allows users to anonymously send crime tips to law enforcement through messages, photos, and videos. The Camden County department paid $4,500 to use the app for a year, and has the right to renew it, according to county spokesperson Dan Keashen.

Anonymous tips are far from new in Camden, but the app encapsulates the benefits — and, to some, the potential pitfalls — of crime reporting in the digital age.

“We look for different ways to interface with the people that we serve,” said Lt. Zsakhiem James, a community commander in Camden. “There’s some strength in anonymity. We’re building our relationship with the public.”

Since the launch of the app, James said, the department has received nearly 500 criminal incident reports, and 600 people have signed up to use it.

Once a user downloads the free app, STOPit prompts the user to enter an access code — in this case, “camdennj” — to connect with the proper channel. Centering the home screen is a large megaphone with “REPORT” written below it. Click the icon, and the app displays a text box with options to add photos and video.

The application does not replace 911, which James said residents should still call for emergencies.

James said he could not share specifics about the tips people submit on the app because many involve ongoing criminal investigations. Still, he said, people report “all kinds of things” — prostitution, drug complaints, information on homicides, and more. Many of these tips have been helpful, he said.

STOPit also has a feature that allows police departments to make announcements. James said they have yet to use this feature, sticking to their Twitter and Facebook accounts instead.

The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office in Central New Jersey was the first law enforcement agency in the nation to use the app in October 2017. Somerset has received 350 anonymous reports on a variety of incidents, including fugitives, narcotics, and information on homicides, according to Detective Jeanne Trillhaase, the public information officer for the Prosecutor’s Office.

“STOPit is a powerful tool that allows citizens to provide information to law enforcement anonymously, without fear of reprisal,” Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson said in a statement. “Law enforcement cannot be everywhere, so citizens are often our best source of information.”

In 2013, STOPit Solutions, based in Holmdel, N.J., rolled out an app to prevent bullying in schools, offering students the option to anonymously report harassment to administrators. Since then, STOPit has diversified its products and now serves 4,000 networks, including police departments, schools, and workplaces. More than 80,000 incident reports have been filed on the app worldwide since its debut, the company said.

Camden residents have long been able to call in tips anonymously through the police hotline. But apps used to send unnamed tips are new, and criminology researchers do not have firm data on the impacts of these technologies.

Nathan Link, an assistant professor of sociology, anthropology, and criminal justice at Rutgers-Camden, said researchers must rely on anecdotal evidence to evaluate unproven apps like STOPit, which Link says has its pros and cons. The anonymity of the app could encourage otherwise reluctant citizens to report crime, he said, but there is a danger that overzealous reporting could target specific individuals or communities, particularly communities of color.

“When you put these sort of powers in people’s hands, it can bring out the racism from some people,” he said.

Link said he’s not sure how effective STOPit will be in Camden, where residents have long hesitated to engage with law enforcement.

Miguel Arriaga, owner of Miguel’s Pharmacy in East Camden and a Camden community leader, was more optimistic. He said the app fits in well with today’s digital world, and residents are using it.

The police “have earned the trust of the people,” said Arriaga, who uses the app. “The people are trying to trust the system again.”



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