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[November 13, 2012]
Anne Arundel police launch smartphone app for students [Capital (Annapolis, MD)]
(Capital (Annapolis, MD) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) For Anne Arundel County school students, alerting police about bullying and other dangerous behavior is now as easy as pressing a few buttons on their smartphones.
Anne Arundel County police have launched a smartphone application, or app, that allows students to quickly and anonymously email police with concerns or questions. Police unveiled the app at a news conference at their Millersville headquarters Monday afternoon.
"A quick message you might not think is important may be the difference between someone getting hurt or not," said Lt. Doyle Batten, commander of the police's school safety section.
Citing incidents that included a shooting that left one student seriously injured in Baltimore County, Batten said he was approached by Police Chief Larry Tolliver about school safety.
Batten wanted to reach students by using social media. But there were logistical problems blocking students from submitting information anonymously, Batten said.
That's when Cpl. William Davis, school resource officer at Old Mill High School, came up with the idea of a smartphone app.
"We wanted to create a format where kids could feel free," said Davis, a 15-year veteran of the force, the past nine at Old Mill High.
The app was designed for less than $1,000 of taxpayer money, Batten said.
Students can use the free app to send messages directly to Batten and his two sergeants.
The app includes the names, photos and short biographies of all 22 school resource officers throughout the county. There are resource officers at 12 high schools and 10 middle schools in the county.
In addition, the app includes phone numbers to agencies and hotlines -- including the Student Safety Hotline, the Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline and the National Suicide Hotline. The numbers are "hot-linked" so that they are dialed as soon as they are touched.
"We want to make this available to everyone -- not just our public school students," Batten said.
County schools spokesman Bob Mosier commended the app.
"It's a chance for students to use something they know," Mosier said. "Texting and email is second nature to them." Batten warned that the app is not a substitute for calling 911 when students are in immediate danger. All messages are as confidential to the extent permitted by the law.
But Batten said that if a student witnesses a serious crime such as a murder, there can be no promises that student wouldn't be contacted as part of a criminal investigation.
"We do not want to publicize where we get information," he said. "That defeats our purpose." The free app is available for Android products through the Google Playstore. It is expected to become available for download in the Apple iTunes store in the coming days.
The app can be downloaded in an Internet-based format and uploaded to Apple and other products at www.aacopdspeakout.myapp.name.
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