Knox County Community Health Coalition asks communities to 'Dare to Care'

kTip to be used to report underage drinking and drug abuse
By Dwight Collins | Dec 17, 2013
Photo by: Dwight Collins Knox County Sheriffs Office Lt. Kirk Guerrette, right, along with John Sommo and Connie Putnam from the Knox County Community Health Coalition and Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher announce the start of kTip, an electronic way to provide anonymous tips to police about underage drug and alcohol activities.

Rockport — A new weapon in the fight against underage drinking and drug abuse in Knox County will allow concerned citizens to send a tip to police electronically and anonymously.

Knox County Community Health Coalition, in conjunction with local police and the sheriff’s office have launched "Dare to Care" by using kTip - a way to allow concerned individuals to report cases of underage drinking or drug use with a text message or through a website.

“Here in Knox County we have an opportunity to save some lives,” said Knox County Community Health Coalition Director Connie Putnam. “We may not be able to do much about this problem nationally, but locally I feel we certainly can make a difference.”

To submit a tip, write the word kTip at the beginning of a text message sent to 274637 (CRIMES) followed by a message detailing the underage drinking or drug activity.

The tip is encrypted through a computer server in Canada before being directed back to Knox County Regional Communications Center. The word kTip is uniquely tied to Knox County and identifies where and when the activity takes place, based on the message.

Smartphone users can download the TipSubmit mobile application. Tips can also be submitted online via buttons on the coalition website at healthyknoxcounty.org.

A two-way conversation begins between the sender of the tip and dispatch. No identifying questions are asked and at any time the tipster can end the conversation. Once the conversation ends with the dispatcher, the tip is forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement entity.

“Although kTip is designed to help use tackle underage drinking, it can also be used to report any type of crime,” said Lt. Kirk Guerrette of Knox County Sheriff's Office. “This does not however - by any means - replace calling 911 in case of an emergency.”

In 2011, high schools in Knox County took part in the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey and the numbers showed that 28 percent of high school students in Knox County reported having at least one drink and 18 percent claimed to have had five drinks in one sitting [binge drinking] in the last 30 days. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of the county students surveyed felt that it is easy to get alcohol and 89 percent felt they would not get caught by police.

Close to a quarter of those polled (23 percent) saw no risk in binge drinking, while 43 percent saw no risk in having one or two drinks a day.

The survey also showed that 40 percent of high school students in Knox County used marijuana in the last 30 days.

Knox County Community Health Coalition Health Education and Prevention Specialist John Sommo said he feels that kTip, combined with some of the other opportunities afforded by the organization, goes a long way to help kids cope with chemical dependency.

“We have some great programs in place to help these teens make smart choices when it comes to underage drinking and drug abuse,” he said. “The 12-2-1 (12 Hours 2 Change 1 Life) or Student Intervention and Reintegration Program is a free 12-hour course that gives teens a chance to look at their high risk choices in a non-judgmental setting.”

Knox County Community Health Coalition has sponsored three classes during the past year for teens showing risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse. The program is similar to the Driver Education and Evaluation Program used for operating under the influence offenses.

Sommo said there are plans in the works to create a Knox County task force on underage drinking and plans for town hall-style meetings in the local communities to bring awareness to the issue.

“We are looking at a January meeting to begin creating the task force, with the possibility of a town hall meeting in March on teen drug and alcohol abuse,” he said.

For more information about teenage drug and alcohol abuse or programs offered by KCCHC contact Sommo at 236-6313 or johnsommo@myfairpoint.com

Using a smartphone is one way to send police an anonymous tip about under age drinking and illegal drug use by using the TipSubmit mobile application. (Photo by: Dwight Collins)
A poster gives people instructions on what to do if they need to report underage drinking activity to local police departments. (Photo by: Dwight Collins)
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Dwight Collins
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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