Madison Police want your kids to text them.
The Text to Protect tip line is 256-604-2345 and is a way to contact police that may seem less scary to a student than calling police.
It was created after 14-year old Todd Brown was shot and killed at Discovery Middle School in 2010. Police realized they needed to communicate better with students and since then it’s grown.
Nowadays you don’t even have to use your phone to text; you can do it from your wrist. That’s what high school senior McKenzie Ellison does and she’s good at walking and dodging other students texting in her school.
“We’ve learned to maneuver the hallways on our phones,” she said.
From school threats to eating disorders, instead of calling 911 the text goes to dispatch and school resource officers’ cell phones.
“There’s a smart phone at our dispatch center that is solely committed and dedicated to the Text Protect tip line,” said Capt. John Stringer. “It gives us an opportunity to have that real time communication with our public and let them know that we are responding, that we did get that information.”
The texts are confidential, but not anonymous and can be used by anyone.
“We want to help kids that are having emotional problems, eating disorders,” Stringer said. “We’ve had reports of suspected bulimia that we’ve been able to get students in high school and middle school to counselors and plug them in to resources so that they don’t fall through the cracks.”
Some students like Ellison say texting is less scary than calling, but if they feel scared in a situation they’d use it.
“With kids being depressed nowadays it’s nice when a friend confides in you and they’re like, ‘don’t say anything about it,’ it’s nice to be able to tell someone and not have that friend get mad at you,” Ellison said.
Stay safe in the school hallways. Police say to save the number.
Some parents told WZDX News they’d talk with their kids about using the tip line. They hope their kids know not to rely on it and call 911 in an emergency.
Stringer says the tip line is used by people ages seven to seventy and can be about any topic, like neighborhood safety. He says dozens of tips came in through the tip line during the Skyline Drive murder investigation.