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High school students can text anonymous tips to cops

Oct 25th, 2011 | By | Category: Features, Front Page

From Chronicling Elizabethtown
Wednesday, October 19, 2011–An anonymous tip texted via cellphone to Elizabethtown School Resource Officer Rick Farnsler earlier this school year might have saved a life.

Through a program Farnsler set up, an Elizabethtown High School student texted that another student might be suicidal. Upon receiving the text, Farnsler communicated anonymously with the first student and was able to get the name of the second student. He then contacted school officials, who set in motion crisis intervention to help the second student.

Farnsler is a borough police officer assigned to the Elizabethtown Area High School full time for several years. Since working at the school, he told Borough Council earlier this month, he has tried various ways to encourage students to provide tips. They have included a hotline and a “suggestion” box — but he said he “never once” got a tip through either.

Knowing that teenagers text as a primary way of communciating, Farnsler researched how he could use texting to receive anonymous tips. He found a program that is entirely anonymous, with no way for him to find out who texted him because the servers are located in Canada. That, he said, is key because students don’t want want to develop a reputation as a “snitch.” All students have to do is text to the number 27637 and include “etown” in the body of the message, and he and several school officials receive a text.

The program cost $1,600 per year. Farnsler approached the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, which is sponsoring the program for this school year.

“It’s a great partnership between the school, the police, the borough and the Rotary,” he said.

“If we saved that life,” Police Chief Jack Mentzer said, referring to the suicide intervention, “this program has already paid for itself a thousand times over.”

Farnsler said this is the only program of its type — completely anonymous texting — for high school students in Lancaster County.

I echo what my fellow Councilman Tom Shaud told Farnsler: “You’ve done something to make the borough proud.”

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