Since the St. Vrain Valley School District closed March 13, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the usually bustling classrooms, cafeterias and playgrounds have been empty. As students learn remotely, school resource officers remain on site continuing, among other work, to investigate Safe2Tell tips.
For the past 16 years, Safe2Tell has served as a tool for people to anonymously report public safety threats online, over the phone and via text. In March, the number of tips reported saw a 13% dip compared to March 2019. That drop was anticipated due to school closures, according to a news release from the Office of the Colorado Attorney General, which oversees Safe2Tell.
Even as a number of residents work and study from home, Attorney General Phil Weiser and Longmont police Sgt. Craig Mortensen , encouraged people to continue to use Safe2Tell so agency partners can have the opportunity to prevent tragedy and stop crime.
Before the coronavirus outbreak Mortensen, who supervises the School Resource Officer Unit for the St. Vrain Valley School District, said the Longmont Police Department would investigate roughly five Safe2Tell tips a day. As of April 17, Mortensen said SROs had investigated two tips in the past week, both involving students experiencing an emotional crisis.
“We still see the connection to (students reporting an emotional crisis),” Mortensen said. “What we’re not seeing are reports saying ‘these two kids are going to fight’ or ‘I heard a rumor that…’ or ‘my teacher is mean.’”
Weiser said he wasn’t surprised to see the drop in reported tips. A cyclical decrease in reports corresponds with school closures, typically during summer or holiday breaks.
“We have this dynamic every time school is out,” Weiser said. “Some number of tips will be related to school conditions, such as teachers, students harassed at recess or a weapon at school. Those categories don’t arise when school is out.”
In March, Safe2Tell received 1,768 tips . Of those, 377 were suicide threats and 101 were drug tips — making these two issues the top reported according to the news release. For the past three years, suicide has been one of the top reported tips. The third most reported type of tip for March was school complaints, a general category. The majority of school complaint tips were related to coronavirus-related reports, the release said.
The number of suicide tips reported in March appears to have decreased slightly compared to the past two months. In February, there were 399 suicide threat tips reported and 415 in January, according to available reports on Safe2Tell’s website. Weiser said the attorney general’s office hopes to analyze March data further to see what number of emotional distress tips may have been related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March, life as Boulder County residents knew it has changed. In addition to schools closing, a number of business also shuttered in an effort to comply with public health directives. Many lost their jobs and unemployment claims spiked. Regardless of the uncertainties ahead, Weiser and Mortensen said they want students and community residents to know that Safe2Tell is still available as a resource.
“If you have a friend, classmate or acquaintance who’s struggling, in any way shape or form, whether emotional issues or safety or health issues — absolutely Safe2Tell is a great way to try and get us involved, at lease on the front end,” Mortensen said.
Despite the dip in March tips, the number reported throughout the 2019 to 2020 school year remains up 16% compared to last school year, the release said.
Weiser echoed Mortensen’s calling, encouraging people to use Safe2Tell as it was designed.
“If they have concerns that threaten their safety, this is a safe, anonymous platform they can use to share info whether about drug use or risk of suicide,” Weiser said.
Those interested in submitting a tip to Safe2Tell can do so by visiting its website at safe2tell.org, by using a mobile app or by calling 1-877-542-7233. Coronavirus concerns involving non-critical businesses being open, or other non-safety related issues stemming from the virus, should not by submitted to Safe2Tell, the release said. Instead, people can visit a compiled resource list at coag.gov/coronavirus.