MODESTO -- A Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers program geared toward students is reinventing itself to get more teenagers involved in preventing crime on their campuses and in their communities.
The Students Speaking Out program will partner with school districts in Modesto, Ceres, Oakdale, Turlock and Newman to educate students about their option to speak out anonymously.
Crime Stoppers has operated in Stanislaus County for seven years, enticing people with cash rewards and anonymity to provide tips to help solve crimes.
Two years ago, Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers started targeting students to reduce crime on area campuses with a program called Campus Crime Stoppers, said Executive Director Carla Castro.
The campaign did have results. Several students were arrested on suspicion of arson, and police caught a student with a BB gun at Elliott Alternative Education Center in Modesto. As recently as Friday, Modesto police got information about a party at which underage students planned to drink.
But Castro said students were turned off by the word "crime" in the old program's name. "They felt like they were being snitches or tattling," she said.
So Stanislaus County followed the lead of San Diego County, which rebranded the program as Students Speaking Out.
Participating schools sent letters to parents last week and posted fliers Monday in the hallways. October was chosen to launch the campaign because it is also anti-bullying month.
Castro said peer pressure and fear of retaliation can inhibit students from coming to teachers or school administrators with information about suspicious activity on campus. If students are aware of the anonymous option, it can reduce crime in and around schools, she said.
Students can call the Students Speaking Out hot line at 1-866-60CRIME toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can provide tips by texting "274637" and including TIP704 at the start of the message, or going to the Web site www.stancrimetips.org and clicking on "send a tip." Tips reported to Students Speaking Out will be turned over to school officials and law enforcement for investigation. Students can receive rewards for information that leads to an arrest or disciplinary action by the school.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366.