New confidential tip line takes aim at gun violence

The hotline will be the first of its kind to allow anonymous text messages.

Frank

A new program unveiled Sept. 14 in Minneapolis will allow people to either call or text anonymous tips to a national crime hotline aimed at reducing gun violence. Minneapolis is the latest addition to the national Speak Up campaign that started in 2002. The tip line, 1-866-SPEAK-UP, is already being used in Los Angeles, New Mexico, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Although the hotline is national, Minneapolis will be the first city that will allow people to text in anonymous tips by sending âÄúMPLSâÄù and a tip to 847411. The tip line is geared toward high school students and was launched in Minnesota at Southwest High School in Minneapolis . âÄúThe tool is always there, itâÄôs just letting the kids know,âÄù said Jennie Lintz , managing director of PAX, the New York City-based nonprofit organization that manages the tip line. Professionally trained crisis counselors based in Arizona are available in 140 languages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to answer calls and respond to texts. Once counselors receive a tip, they compile a report and transfer the information over to the local school district and law enforcement agencies. Since 2002, the hotline has received more than 25,000 calls nationally. The hotline has not had any problems with false reports because of the anonymity but has had several cases where there was an insufficient amount of information to warrant an investigation. âÄúWeâÄôve had our fair share of hang-ups,âÄù Lintz said. The city of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Police Department approached PAX earlier in the year and asked the organization to extend their Speak Up campaign to Minneapolis as part of the cityâÄôs âÄúBlueprint for ActionâÄù campaign to prevent youth violence. At least 1 million high school students bring a gun to school once every 30 days, according to a 2007 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 2007 study conducted by Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice found that 70 percent of students would report a friend if they could do it anonymously. âÄúThe whole idea is to get students talking,âÄù Stan Alleyne, director of communications for Minneapolis Public Schools, said . A lot is being done to let students know about the new program. Stickers and cards were distributed at Southwest High School during breaks in classes following the introduction ceremony. âÄúWe thought having an announcement at [Southwest High School] was a good start on spreading the word about the program so [students will] utilize it and know there is an avenue to give anonymous tips,âÄù Alleyne said. Posters summarizing the program can also be found in many public places, such as schools, parks and libraries. A public awareness campaign will also begin next month, including television and radio advertisements. In addition to Minneapolis, Knox County, Tenn.; Little Elm, Texas; and New York City will also unveil the hotline this fall.