Students gather at Beaumont for the Texas Crime Stoppers Campus Conference
Hundreds of students from across the state, joined by school teachers, law enforcement and other qualified specialists, gathered at the MCM Eleganté Hotel & Conference Center and Event Center in Beaumont for the three-day Texas Crime Stoppers Campus conference starting Feb. 7. -9. Attendees learned about Campus Crime Stoppers programs, were educated on the dangers of drugs and vaping, and even got to try hypnosis and self-defense techniques in breakout sessions during the conference .
Southeast Texas Crime Stoppers Campus Administrator and Coordinator Jeremy Raley and the Board of Trustees welcomed approximately 250 attendees to Beaumont for the statewide event, which included also a Texas Best Awards Banquet honoring organizations, board members, and law enforcement for community betterment efforts through their premises. Crime Stoppers programs.
“People came from all over the state – La Joya ISD, Amarillo, Odessa and local schools. It was great! The participation really impressed me and made me very, very happy,” remarked Raley. “What made it so cool was that we offered a lot of different courses. Participants could choose from one of four tracks to take, and each track offered its own set of courses, like Your Power as a Creator difference, self-defense tactics, cybersecurity/human trafficking awareness, human trafficking 101, and active shooter prevention, among others.
“The purpose of the conference is truly to educate and empower the students, faculty, and Crime Stoppers organizations that serve their communities every day. We don’t want Columbine; we don’t want Santa Fe; we don’t want “No Lakeland. We don’t want any of that stuff to happen here. Santa Fe was already too close.”
Several courses offered information to help Campus Crime Stoppers leaders and coordinators, with information on the organization’s bylaws, administrator roles and responsibilities, payment of rewards, and tipster anonymity.
Texas Government Code 414, Texas Crime Stoppers Council, defines state council and local Crime Stoppers organizations, establishing guidelines that must be followed in order to form local chapters. It also establishes Crime Stoppers’ complete anonymity, which is vitally important to its programs, Raley explains.
“There’s a saying that snitches have stitches, and especially with Campus Crime Stoppers programs, students don’t want to report other students. But doing what’s right doesn’t make you a snitch. It is doing what is right,” he said. “Because we’re completely anonymous, tipsters don’t have to worry about someone at school finding out they’re the one tipping off a crime or potential crime. They can earn up to $1,000 in tips, and our software creates complete anonymity.
“Parents and teachers know things, children know things, but they are afraid of reprisals. There are a lot of good kids out there, a lot more good kids than bad kids. If we can call on the right kids, we can win.
Another course offered at the recent conference emphasized the need for anonymity. Maurine Molak spoke to students who attended her class about bullying, cyberbullying and David’s Law, named in memory of her son, who took his own life after being maliciously cyberbullied.
David Bartlett Molak, 16, committed suicide on Monday January 4, 2016 in his hometown of San Antonio. According to his family, David, who was an Eagle Scout, enjoyed hunting, fishing, football and playing games with loved ones, but became the target of relentless cyberbullying from a peer group. Although the Molak family tried to stop the attacks and their school tried to intervene, the harassment continued. Because cyberbullying had not been addressed by the Education Code or legal guidelines, the law was not on the side of the victim, and disciplinary powers were insufficient or non-existent.
After David’s suicide, the Molak family championed cyberbullying laws in the Texas Legislature, resulting in David’s Law, which allowed schools and parents to seek legal remedies against bullies. perpetrators of cyberbullying activities, creating civil and criminal implications for such activities. Abusers can now be punished for cyberbullying, regardless of where and what time of day these communications occur.
Among other things, David’s Law requires that each public school district include cyberbullying in its district policies and adopt and implement district-wide policies and procedures that will prohibit the bullying of a student; prohibit retaliation against anyone who provides information about an incident of bullying; create a procedure for notifying parents and guardians of incidents of bullying; and create a way for students to report bullying anonymously.
While all schools are required to provide anonymous tip lines to report bullying, only schools using Crime Stoppers software can promise tipsters complete anonymity, Raley explained. According to him, some schools have purchased their own software from companies promising anonymity; but, he said, if someone subpoenaed these taped tips in a court case, they would likely be able to access them because these companies are not protected by government code 414.
“If anyone tries to subpoena the tips we receive, we refer them to government code 414,” Raley said.
According to government code 414.008, with very few exceptions, “evidence relating to a communication between a person submitting a tip…and a person who accepted the tip…is not admissible in court or administrative proceeding and cannot be considered at a hearing. regarding the expulsion of a student… or any other student disciplinary proceedings.
“A record from the council, crime-fighting organization, law enforcement agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school regarding tipping…cannot be compelled to be produced before a court or other tribunal, except on request. ”
Raley says he’s thrilled the statewide conference was held in Beaumont this year, and he thinks the students learned a lot while having a great time in the city. As a bonus, the local Crime Stoppers chapter walked away with their very own Texas Best Award for TV’s Best Public Service Announcement competition. The group also received recognition from Governor Greg Abbott, U.S. Representative Randy Weber, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, Texas Representative Joe Deshotel, Texas Senator Brandon Creighton, and Beaumont Mayor Robin Mouton.
“It’s an honor, and I’m proud to represent Southeast Texas Crime Stoppers,” Raley said. “As long as you use it, Crime Stoppers is one of the best tools available to law enforcement.”
If you have information about a crime, contact Crime Stoppers by calling (409) 833-8477 (TIPS), online at www.833TIPS.com, or download the P3TIPS app. You will remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.