Editor’s note: The jump for this story was left out of Wednesday’s Daily Record. This is the entirety of the story.

Amidst a growing drug epidemic, communities are adopting new platforms to address substance abuse issues at the core of their neighborhoods. A new program called Project Stand Up (PSU), a national anonymous texting platform and advocacy campaign, has been launched in Ellensburg and is the first of its kind to hit the state.

Citizens can text local law enforcement with tips about illegal drug dealing, distribution, and use by texting DRUGS to 82557. The tipster will then be asked a few questions and requested additional information while remaining anonymous.

Students, parents, and community members may use the service anytime with the promise that their information will get to authorities quickly without revealing their personal identity.

PSU is managed by a nonprofit organization that secures funding from corporations, foundations and individuals. Currently, four people manage the program around the clock, taking shifts to vet the information and send the tips to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

The program started two years ago in South Dakota and according to its creator, Dave Bean, PSA has generated tips that have led to more than 1,000 drug crime investigations. Bean said he was disheartened to see family and friends affected by drugs and wanted to make a platform that could have an impact.

“Law enforcement is only as good as the information they receive from the public. We encourage citizens to come forward and share what they know about illegal drug use and distribution,” Bean said.

Bean said this prompted the idea of a digital deputy since everyone has a cellphone and people know when suspicious activity is happening within their neighborhood.

According to Bean, people tend to be more familiar with their neighborhoods and aware of suspicious activities than the officers who patrol them.

“I go to all these little towns and I was absolutely blown away with the number of drug problems. It just killed me to hear a town with no red lights, or the star quarterback, you know, had a drug problem,” Bean said.

Ellensburg is the first community in the state to enact the program.

“I used to live here and I have a great soft spot for the valley,” Bean said. He said he also thought Ellensburg would be a good testing ground because there is a strong community engagement and concern for drug-related issues.

Bean said photos also can be attached to the tip to help law enforcement pursue the information. Ellensburg Police Chief Ken Wade said those files are not kept after it is determined there is no criminality to the report.

According to Wade, telephone tip lines have been functioning in departments for a very long time, but some people may hesitate or leave no message at all when asked to identify themselves.

“We’re trying to capture as much information on criminal activity as we can,” Wade said.

According to Wade, each tip received, whether it is through the stand-up program or an anonymous phone call, EPD still has to validate and vet the information before taking any form of action.

“It’s a good pointer, it points us in the direction or where there may be criminal activity,” Wade said.

At this time the program is specifically for drug-related incidents, but other states are broadening its functions to involve other tips involving student issues like suicide, shootings, larceny, bullying, vandalism, drug crimes, and even cheating can be texted in at any time and from any place.

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