New rewards program aimed at keeping River Region schools weapons free
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - As students get ready to head back to class across the River Region, authorities are launching an initiative to combat weapons in schools.
They believe bigger rewards for tipsters who step forward with important details will make a difference in exposing possible threats in schools.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and Central Alabama CrimeStoppers have announced a new Gun Deterrent Initiative designed to uncover hidden dangers and keep illegal guns out of schools.
"We're trying to keep the schools safe by empowering students to be able to turn in dangerous situations such as a gun to an adult or staff member before something occurs," said Tony Garrett, Executive Director of Central Alabama CrimeStoppers.
Currently, CrimeStoppers offers a $50 gift card to any student who turns in anyone involved in activity they deem to be a danger to the students or staff of their school. They can remain anonymous and expose individuals with guns and knives and anyone involved in drug transactions and theft.
Within the past five years, CrimeStoppers' Scholastic Tip Line has resulted in 87 criminal arrests and the clearance of 122 criminal cases on school grounds in the River Region.
This school year, the ATF will be offering a $500 reward, through CrimeStoppers, for any tip that leads to the confiscation of a gun on school grounds. It includes after-school sanctioned events.
"This past year, we got three guns out of the schools throughout the River Region. We were thankful that nothing occurred from those three incidents and the students were able to tell someone and they were able to get those guns out of the schools. We feel that was too close though. So that's why we're going with the $500 incentive," Garrett explained.
Corporal Pamela Revels is with the Lee County Sheriff Office School Resource Officer Division. She serves as president of the Alabama Association of School Resource Officers and regional director for the National Association of School Resource Officers. She feels the program is a proactive measure and a way to foster responsibility and safety.
"Our number one mission is to keep our kids safe and we also want to educate them. To be able to do that, you have to have a very safe environment so anything to promote that type of culture is what we try to do. Of course, when you're talking about firearms in a school, we want to make sure that that's not happening. So we really want to implore our students to tell someone if they know something because it not only keep them safe and everyone else safe as well," Revels said.
Moses Harper owns Authority Bail Bonds in Montgomery and he donated money to the reward program. As a former member of law enforcement, he knows the benefits of reporting crimes and being able to stay anonymous.
"It's going to give even more of an incentive for students or people to get involved and be more forthright in telling what they see or hear or have knowledge of," Harper said. "I think it's a good way to enhance community involvement. Also, it's way to work with our youth today... I figured that if I could help out in any way that would be good."
The ATF and Central Alabama CrimeStoppers are offering the service to every school system in the River Region to include Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Pike, Butler and Tallapoosa counties.
Garrett met with local agencies Friday to let them know about the program and how it works.
"This will be available for football games and after school events. If a child or student sees some type of danger, they'll have some type of way to tell an adult. It's safe and anonymous and without fear of retaliation," he said. "We're hoping that we won't have to pay out a dollar because the students that normally bring the guns to school or has the potential to bring a gun to school, they'll be afraid to do that because of that's incentive that's there for other students to say, "Hey, I want to be safe. I don't want to get shot in my school so don't bring it. If you do, I'm going to tell someone."
To report a gun in a River Region school, call the CrimeStoppers hotline at 215-STOP.
Anonymous tips can also be sent by texting "CACS" plus your message to CRIMES (274637) or to the CrimeStoppers Facebook page
"We view it as a way to reward the student for being a good citizen," Garrett said.
To schedule an appointment to discuss in detail how the reward program works and how it can be implemented into your school system, please call Tony Garrett at 334-777-8116 or email at Garrett073.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through the ATF, CrimeStoppers is also planning on doing drug and gang training programs for school resource officers. Garrett says they are looking for grant funding and resources to help make it economical for local agencies to participate.
Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.