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BERGEN COUNTY (WABC) — There is a new weapon to curb violence in schools.

Two high schools in Bergen County have set up a hotline for students to anonymously report bullying, vandalism or other threats. And there’s even a reward for the tips.

“You never think it can happen at your school, but it can,” sophomore Sam Harris said.

Harris attends Northern Valley Demarest. His high school, along with Old Tappan High School, are set to become the first in Bergen County to launch an anonymous hotline aimed at stopping crimes before they occur.

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“Some people are hesitant to call the police department,” Demarest Police Chief James Powderley said. “They don’t want to be labeled a snitch.”

The hotline is designed to address a range of crimes, including vandalism, drugs and hazing. Administrators hope that it will be a way to report the kinds of warning signs that were missed at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

“If someone had intervened and said I’m concerned, maybe the tragedies would have been averted,” Northern Valley superintendent Dr. Jan Furman said.

Demarest police will hang posters around the high school and around town to encourage students to call or e-mail, and to remind them there’s a $1,000 reward.

“It’s a great school and a great community, and we’d like to keep it that way,” senior Sushaan Modi said.

The hotline is staffed by counselors who are trained to weed out pranks, like the one that shut down the Northern Valley district and other surrounding towns in 2007.

The hotline, which will be 1-800-78-CRIME, opens next week and will be free for taxpayers. It’s paid for by the school’s insurance company.


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