Correction: This story was corrected April 5 to include the correct Crimestoppers hotline phone number.
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office launched a first-of-its-kind mobile app that they say will help law enforcement better respond to potential threats to school safety, Sheriff P.J. Tanner announced at a Friday news conference.
"We're not aware of this (app) being utilized anywhere else in South Carolina," Tanner said.
Instead of phoning the statewide crime-reporting hotline known as Crimestoppers, anyone with the P3Tips app can anonymously submit a tip and attach photos, videos or other pertinent information. The app also allows users to submit additional information, if they learn of any, and check the status of the tip they submitted.
Nearly a dozen potential threats to Beaufort County students’ safety have been reported in the wake of the Valentine's Day massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school. Just this week, a potential threat to River Ridge Academy, which Bluffton Police Department determined was unfounded, prompted parents of about 200 students to sign their children out of school.
At a safety forum held earlier this month, when Tanner mentioned the app for the first time, Beaufort County School District Superintendent Jeff Moss vowed to install the new app onto all district tablets.
However, Tanner said Friday that the district plans to retain its own internal app, created in 2014 for students to anonymously report bullying, because of "legal issues" the district says it has in sharing information from the app with law enforcement.
Tanner said the district receives about 2,500 tips each year from its internal app, but not all of the tips warrant informing a law enforcement agency. He did not have an estimate Friday on how many of the district's tips get forwarded to his office.
"We get what they send us," Tanner said. "They still notify us if something comes in that they deem to be a threat. I think law enforcement is the appropriate entity to determine if something is threatening. We're in hopes that information still comes in and flows in."
Anyone can download P3Tips through the iPhone store or Google Play. The Crimestoppers hotline is available at 843-554-1111. The department asks users submitting tips to include the school's name. If it's an emergency, call 911.