At the beginning of the 2011-12 school season, Union County Crime Stoppers officially launched its Campus Crime Stoppers program in all Union County middle and high schools. This is the first formal and comprehensive school tips program in New Jersey, enlisting the assistance and support of students in the 5th – 12th grades to keep county schools and communities safe from crime. It is administered by Union County Crime Stoppers, a volunteer group of concerned citizens, and is supported by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, and the law enforcement community.
“Theft, vandalism, graffiti, drugs, alcohol, weapons, gang activity and threats of violence are all crimes that negatively affect a student’s ability to learn, and the safety of everyone within the school,” said Ron Posyton, a primary founder of Union County Crime Stoppers, who has served as its chairman since the organization’s inception in 1984, and is the only member who is known publicly.
Any student, parent, teacher or school staff member who has information about a crime or dangerous activity that has occurred, is occurring, or will occur at any school, can anonymously contact Campus Crime Stoppers to let them know what they know.
Individuals can anonymously submit tips in three ways: by telephone, at (908) 654-TIPS (908-654-8477), by texting UCTIP and the tip to 274637 (CRIMES), or by submitting a form online at www.uctip.org. All tips remain anonymous.
“Establishing a positive relationship and trust with law enforcement is important,” said Prosecutor Theodore Romankow. “The Campus crime stoppers program ensures students the right to live and study in a safe environment.”
If criminal in nature, that tip will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency. If a tip helps to solve a crime and leads to the arrest and indictment of a criminal suspect, the tipster is eligible for a cash reward of up to $5,000.
The organization anticipates it will also receive tips or concerns involving school-related issues, such as bullying, cyber-bullying, or information about inappropriate material being posted on Facebook or another social networking sites. In that instance, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and Union County Police Department — which monitors the program –will forward the information to the district, specifically the superintendent of schools, or head security officer.
Public schools have already received the comprehensive materials packet, including a five-minute DVD created by Union County Crime Stoppers that will be shown to the students first, explaining the program in simple terms.
Immediately afterwards, bookmarks, brochures and cards containing the contact information will be distributed to each student. Posters have already been hung throughout schools with the same information. Both the posters and bookmarks carry the message, “Make a difference. Help us keep you safe.”
Discussion guidelines and lesson plans have also been provided to continue the conversation in each classroom. A letter to parents and guardians explaining the program have been provided, and schools have been requested to post the information on their website, as well as link to the Union County Crime Stoppers website, www.uctip.org.
While targeted for use during School Violence Awareness Week — October 17-21, 2011 — each school will determine when and how to introduce the program. Materials are currently being prepared for parochial and charter schools.
Posyton noted that when the program was first introduced to the County Superintendents in May of 2010, the Elizabeth School District immediately jumped on board and asked to have the program piloted there. The staff was instrumental in designing the bookmarks and posters, and in handling the editing and duplication of the Union County Crime Stoppers DVD.
“Crime doesn’t pay, but we do,” said Posyton.