GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Law enforcement officers may be coming to your child's school to ask students for their help in solving crimes. Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers has created a program for middle schools across South Mississippi. On Wednesday, the organization made its first stop in Gautier to show students how they turn into tipsters.
A group of eighth graders watched a dramatic video about a teenage girl who overheard a boy making a threat to shoot a teacher. The story ended with the girl reporting the tip to Crime Stoppers, which ended up saving the teacher's life. They also heard real stories, like when several teens reported a domestic violence incident to police instead of keeping quiet.
Representatives with Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers used the stories and video clip to help launch its new Campus Crime Stoppers program at Gautier Middle School.
"We're real excited to be here. This is a pilot program," MS Coast Crime Stoppers Coordinator Lori Massey announced.
Massey told the students they are in a unique position. She said while adults often provide tips after a crime has been committed, students can actually prevent crimes from happening.
"Maybe that person told another student they're going to bring a gun to school, and who do they tell? They're scared to tell someone. Maybe they can pick up the phone and, completely anonymously, call Crime Stoppers," said Massey.
Officers are relying on the young people to be their extra eyes and ears on campus and in the community.
"Even if it's just a rumor. Let the law enforcement determine if it's a rumor or not. If you see something, say something," said Massey.
Students can report anything suspicious, from weapons and drugs to bullying and suicide threats.
"I didn't know anything about Crime Stoppers. Today, I know more about it, and I can get more involved in it," said eighth grader Madyson Braden.
"Young people know more of what's happening in the community. I feel more safe that I could actually do something about it," said eighth grader Austin Albert.
The tipsters can also get some cash if their information leads to an arrest.
"Because if you don't stop them at the time it happened, then it's too late. Somebody could be dead. Some school could be shot up," said eighth grader Austin Gueye.
They are learning to be responsible citizens and how their tips can help police keep their campus safe.
"To put it in a school system and to be here in Gautier, we're real honored that they're here to test it out. I hope it's productive, and I'm sure it will be," said Gautier police Public Affairs Officer Matt Hoggatt.
The students also learned when to call 911 instead of the Crime Stoppers Hotline and the three different ways they can report an anonymous tip.
The program will eventually expand to the high schools. The hot line number is 877-787-5898.