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Tips a tap at a time
Authorities tout text messaging
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School safety director Bruce Wagar, center, discusses student texting Thursday with the Forsyth County school board as Sheriff Ted Paxton, left, watches. Chris Grimes, right, works the projector. - photo by Jennifer Sami
On the Net
All school Web sites have a Crime Stoppers button to click on to make an anonymous tip. Other Web sites for Campus Crime Stoppers are and Tips can be called in to (770) 205-4625 or by sending a text message to the word CRIMES (274637) and beginning the message with "FCSS."

Friday morning, students came to school armed.

Sure, it may have been with cell phones. But through a new effort between the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office and the school system, those phones can be used to prevent crime.

Campus Crime Stoppers allows students, parents, teachers and residents to anonymously text message the sheriff's office with tips on criminal activity, in addition to placing phone calls or sending an e-mail.

Bruce Wagar, the district's director of school safety, outlined the plan to the school board during its work session Thursday night.

"It's a way for anyone in the community ... to give information to the sheriff's office when they know a crime is going to occur, or if there is something that is needed to be reported," Wagar said.

"There is no excuse now for anyone in the county not being able to give an anonymous tip about safety in our community, and it makes everybody in Forsyth County accountable for safe schools and a safe community."

Sheriff Ted Paxton said Lt. Jody Chapman approached about the program, which he added was an easy sell.

"That's what the world is today ... text messaging," Paxton said during the meeting. "And you have to go after what is their [students'] world.

"All of us are committed to this, to have the safest campus and to protect the children out there."

All text messages will be assigned a unique user identification, which will allow an investigator to have two-way dialogue without ever viewing the informant's name or phone number.

Paxton said anonymity will make students feel more comfortable sharing information as they won't have to worry about peer pressure.

The technology will not replace calling 911 in an emergency situation, Wagar said, but it will assist the sheriff's office in non-urgent illegal activity, including vandalism, theft and drug use or sales.

But what about crank or false texts?

"Current users all tell us that it has not been a problem," Wagar said after the meeting. "The sheriff and I both agree that having this sort of communication access from students, staff and community members far outweighs the risk of a 'crank' call now and then.

"With the implementation of this program, all stakeholders in the education community have now become a partner in the safety and well-being of students, staff and visitors to our schools."

Students can also report information from popular social networking Web sites, which could help prevent harmful or tragic situations.

"We're just trying to do everything we can to be proactive to try to stop things from happening," Paxton said. "It will be a good program."