MONDAY, Feb. 11 — A newly launched program at DeWitt Public Schools offers a $50 payout for high school students that are willing to squeal on their classmates for stashing aside illegal drugs, alcohol and weapons.
The school district north of Lansing is the latest to team up with Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan for its ever-expanding “Fast $50” program. High schools throughout Lansing, Dansville and Mason have participated in the program for years — and it usually leads to several students busted for contraband annually, officials said.
“I don’t expect it to get a lot of action, but it’s nice to know that it’s there,” explained DeWitt Superintendent John Deiter. “It just gives another outlet for our students who have seen or know of something to speak up and say something. They can make a confidential report and possibly receive a financial incentive for doing so.”
The concept is simple: Anonymous reports funnel from school staff to local police. If it leads to a bust, the tipster can walk away with $50. The offending student must be suspended or expelled, and any reports that net a felony conviction could also justify a larger payout, depending on the severity of the offense.
The funds are largely provided by local businesses like insurance companies and cell phone stores. Other sponsors include Leo’s Bail Bonds and the city of Lansing, where seven local schools actively participate.
“We have no more issues here than any other school,” said DeWitt Assistant Principal Sean Wade. “This is just stuff that’s out there in the world. I’ve been to some funerals. It’s not something that you want to be a part of. It’s really about educating students and keeping that communication open, and this is another tool we can use.”
Ingham County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jason Ferguson said over the last two years, reports from local high schools have generated a 50-50 split between drugs and weapons. No “hard drugs,” like heroin or methamphetamine, have been found, but deputies have been able to snatch up “lots and lots” of marijuana from nearby students, he said.
“There has also been some alcohol,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think we’ve ever seized a gun but we’ve had knives.”
Like OK2SAY and other programs for anonymous student reporting, the Fast $50 program is also designed to quell fears about any retaliation for students ratting out their colleagues. The goal: Keep the community safe.
“I think everyone is motivated in different ways but at the end of the day, the goal is to continue to keep communities and schools safe,” added Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski. “Any way we can get that information — as long as its legal and not being used for immoral purposes — is a positive on our end.”