Tracy Chief of Police Gary Hampton met with students who are part of the Bulldog Project, Monday, Oct 28, and described a 19-hour window this spring when he believed the safety of the entire community was threatened by events at local high schools.
“There was a point in this city, as your police chief, I had to declare a state of emergency and open the emergency operation center, because I had my entire department deployed toward bomb threats,” Hampton said.
Situations like that are the reason Hampton wants to encourage Bulldog Project members to take action in our community.
“The most effective crime deterrent we have are your thousands of sets of eyes and ears,” Hampton said.
Tracy High senior Jeff Takahashi set up the Bulldog Project in September, but he changed its goal to campus safety after his mother started volunteering for Tracy Crime Stoppers.
“Were trying to create a safe learning environment where kids don’t feel threatened by the seniors at school — it can limit their potential,” Takahashi said.
Now, more than 50 students of all grade levels promote campus safety through the Bulldog Project. A key element is Students Speaking Out, an anonymous tip line for students when they know of a threat or dangerous situation on campus.
Takahashi said another big part of the Bulldog Project is giving students who are being bullied a way to talk about it.
“It can really happen to anyone — they can be abused and don’t want to talk about it,” Takahashi said. “They don’t want to say anything, because they are too scared. If they call anonymously, the problem situation can be stopped.”
The police chief said bullying is all too easy with electronic devices and social media.
“Cyberbullying is one of the most vicious crimes a person can be involved in, and the biggest issue is some of us don’t even know we are doing it,” Hampton said.
Hampton said many students may know a crime has occurred before the police do, because of social media. He used an example of a house party attended by more than 100 teens.
After someone was shot, Hampton said most of the people left the house. The police looked up the IP addresses of phones texting from a cell tower near the shooting, and with a search warrant, they identified witnesses at the scene even after they had left.
“We saw all these eyewitnesses that weren’t there when got there,” the chief said, “So we contact them and find there were a whole bunch of people cyberbullying this person and they knew they was going to be a party and how best to get back at somebody who was cyberbullying is to shoot up the party.”
Hampton said the student group can help avert similar violent situations.
“If you are aware of cyberbullying, you now have an outlet that could save someone’s life,” Hampton said. “Students Speaking Out is a lifesaving project. It can be more effective than other resources I have available as your police chief to keep you safe.”
The Bulldog Project will begin its campus safety outreach by talking with middle school students and children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy.
The group has filmed skits on anti-bullying, cyberbullying, gang and drug awareness topics to air on the local cable access Channel 26.
Bulldog Project team member Ashlie Rodgers, a Tracy High senior, said getting the message out is an important part of the group.
“The skits that are aired on television will be a huge step for the Bulldog Project,” Rodgers said. “Parents will see there are kids speaking out for students who are shy and very scared at school and they should know they are not alone and school environment should be safe.”
Hampton said the Bulldog Project will build renewed trust within the Tracy school system that will allow a greater level of security and safety.
Rodgers said she hoped the Bulldog Project could expand to other schools.
“I feel like we should try to spread this citywide. We want to bring this to the other high schools, Kimball and West High,” Rodgers said. “I feel like the middle school and elementary school students will see us as positive role models. They will see that speaking out is not bad and they are not alone.”
To send an anonymous message to Students Speaking Out, text 274637, call 831-4847 or go online to www.tracycrimestoppers.com and click on “Students Speaking Out.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.