Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap wants to increase school safety, with armed officers stationed at area schools.
The effort is part of sweeping safety measures the sheriff’s office plans among the schools it protects, which include those outside of municipal jurisdictions. The schools impacted will include Legacy and Singing Hills elementary schools in Elizabeth and the Elbert School in Elbert.
The proposed security measures include patrol vehicles parked in school parking lots, mental health training for school district employees and adoption of the Text-a-Tip program already implemented in neighboring districts.
In an online video produced by the sheriff’s office, Heap remained critical of the state Legislature, which he said failed to address child protection in its effort to increase gun safety.
“In all the legislation passed, it’s appalling to me nothing has been done to protect our children,” Heap said. “Our children are no more safe today than they were when (the Colorado General Assembly) started this legislation.”
To increase school security, the sheriff’s office intends to dispatch retired and reserve officers to be on duty at the targeted schools, Heap said.
To increase law enforcement visibility around the schools, patrol vehicles will be equipped with the technology to allow deputies to remotely file paperwork from their squad cars.
“They’ll be in school parking lots watching and working at the same time,” Heap said.
By the end of May, the sheriff’s office will launch the Text-a-Tip program, which provides an anonymous way to send word of a crime or security concern to local law enforcement. Since 2009, Text-a-Tip has been used at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, which says the program has saved 11 lives since its inception.
To increase awareness about the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, schools will receive training through the public education program, Youth Mental Health First Aid.
“It’s a matter of understanding the importance of early intervention and teaches how to help a youth in crisis,” Heap said.
The sheriff’s office will also conduct training on school lockdowns, natural disasters and intruder safety assessment drills.
“The risk still exists that we could have another school tragedy,” Heap said. “It’s time we pull together to protect our children and quit waiting on a dysfunctional system to help.”
The Elizabeth C-1 School District, the county’s largest district, is discussing the possibility of a stronger law enforcement presence among its schools, according to Michele McCarron, Elizabeth schools communication specialist.
McCarron responded to an interview request in an email that said the district has formed a safety committee to address school security. A six-month review resulted in a report to school board members, district leaders and emergency responders, while feedback culled from a district survey resulted in a list of action steps, still under review, McCarron said.
“Crisis teams, emergency plans, and school safety drills are just some of the mechanisms that have been established in our district to help ensure that everyone knows exactly how to respond to an emergency or crisis,” McCarron said. “(Crisis) training is part of our learning academy and is a mandatory training for all employees. Every step is taken every day, to the best of our ability, to make sure our students and staff are safe at school.”
How does Text-a-Tip work?
The program allows tipsters to send an anonymous text message from a cell phone. The tipster will then receive a text, with a confidential code number, so information can be added to the original tip.
The tips could include alerts about illegal activities, bullying or potentially suicidal students. As long as the communication has not been stopped, then either the Douglas-Elbert County Dispatch Center, Elbert County Sheriff’s Office or local police departments will be able to re-contact tipsters via text message.
For a demonstration of this new technology, go to www.SMSCrimeTips.com.
Source: Elbert County Sheriff’s Office