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ICSO establishes hot line to report terrorist threats at local schools

March 14, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Hoping to prevent tragedies on Imperial County campuses, the Imperial County Sheriff's Office has established a hot line to report terrorist threats at schools like those allegedly made by Santana High School freshman Charles "Andy" Williams days before he opened fire at school.

The department's Crimestoppers hot line, in addition to being used by citizens to report crimes of all kinds also will serve as the county's new Safe Schools line, an anonymous service to which students can report threats against local schools, students and staff.

Whereas the Crimestoppers line sometimes offers rewards, the Safe Schools line will give no such compensation, said Jerry Godsey of the Sheriff's Office crime prevention unit.

Safe Schools is completely anonymous, Godsey said. Callers do not need to give their names and the service cannot track incoming calls, Godsey said.

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People with any information about threats made at any Imperial County school, elementary through college, are asked to call the hot line and leave the name of the person making the threats, the name of the school and the type of threat made.

Godsey stressed callers should not feel they're tattling on classmates.

"You're not ratting these kids out," Godsey said.

The reluctance to get someone, especially a friend, in trouble for making threats may keep some kids from notifying school or law enforcement officials, Godsey said.

"In trouble is better than being dead," Godsey said.

Members of the crime prevention unit will respond to calls by talking to students who allegedly make threats.

Officials will arrive in plain clothes, talk to the student or students about the threat and problems they've been having and give references to counselors.

"We're offering a service. We're not looking to arrest anybody," Godsey said.

Godsey added that it's up to each school to decide to handle the situation in house or to have threat-making students arrested.

"A lot of these kids have unresolved anger or hurt that's become anger," Godsey said.

By talking with threat-making students, members of the crime prevention unit will provide the students an opportunity to relieve some of that built-up pressure.

"It's like taking the cap off a bottle of soda," Godsey said.

The idea to offer such a line started within the Sheriff's Office on Friday, Godsey said. Posters advertising the hotline were being printed Tuesday afternoon. They, along with stickers displaying the hotline's number, will be distributed to local schools, Godsey said.

The Safe Schools phone number is 339-6333.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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