Texting tips: Willowick Police create app to communicate with students

WILLOWICK, OH (WOIO) - Willowick Police are taking advantage of what kids do best, texting.

Police are looking to improve communication and stop any possible threats in their tracks.

The smartphone app they created could be the first of its kind developed by police.

The "STOP" app will be monitored around the clock by police dispatchers.

It's not for emergencies, but police hope it will be an easy to use, open line of communication between officers and students.

Sgt. Bruce LaForge of Willowick Police was looking at his phone one day when he had an idea.

"The app is for our Willowick Middle School students, to get a hold of us the way they know how best, by texting," he said.

His plan is to connect students to police with an app called "STOP"-- "Students Text Officers Protect."

"This is who's bullying me on the playground, or this is what's happening on the playground, they send it right to us, we get it instantly, we investigate it," Sgt. LaForge said.

The app could help police track down possible threats, as serious as school shootings.

Once students download the app, they'll be partially anonymous.

Police will have their number, but not their name.

And they'll need consent from their parents to use it.

"Once they click on that, there's texting right to this phone that's going to be in dispatch 24/7, and it's instant notification to us," Sgt. LaForge said.

They can even send police photos, and it's free to use.

So what do teens think of the idea?

"I think it's the perfect way for kids to nonchalantly talk to a policeman if there's a threat. And it get instant response from a policeman so they can instantly do something about it," said 18-year-old Steve Ducsay.

He went to Willowick Middle School, and said this is a positive side to kids always being on their phones.

"It brings the community together and makes the schools safer," he said.

Sgt. LaForge hopes it breaks barriers.

"I've been here 27 years, we don't get calls from children. They're afraid to or they just don't want to. We're hoping they feel comfortable using their phone that they live with and text us," he said.

Willowick Police hope to launch the "STOP" app at the middle school at the start of the next school year in August.

Sgt. LaForge used an app company to develop it.

It cost $1,000 upfront, which luckily was covered by a donation.

Copyright 2018 WOIO. All rights reserved.