October 25, 2017
BASKING RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A first-of-its-kind app is using technology to fight the opioid epidemic.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the app is being used by law enforcement in the United States, with the goal of saving lives.
As Deb Len walked with Baker Wednesday, she talked about her son, Zachary, an aspiring chef who hid his opioid addiction until it was too late. He died of an overdose at the age of 24 at their home in Bridgewater, New Jersey.
“It just didn’t make any sense, because he really did want to get better,” Len said. “He didn’t want to do this.”
Len said Zach began taking pills recreationally his sophomore year at Monmouth University. She wishes she knew what was going on behind the scenes.
“They’re not going to come to me and say, ‘Your son’s in trouble,’” she said.
Now, Somerset County is making it easier to help someone, with an anonymous messaging app called “STOPit.”
“A reporting platform for members of the community to report anonymously incidents to law enforcement via their cellphone or computer device,” said county Prosecutor Michael Robertson.
Len pointed out that users no longer have to drive to cities to pick up drugs. It is happening right in suburbia.
“Or if they knew where they were getting these drugs, they would report that to try and stop the flow of it,” Len said.
STOPit founder Todd Schobel created the communication platform simply to look like a text message – a comfortable format for most.
“Once that dialogue starts, it’s amazing how the investigatory process improves, because people are sharing more, and you’re able to go back and forth with that individual and develop a relationship, still under the veil of anonymity,” Schobel said.
Police dispatch and members of the Prosecutor’s office will be at the other end of live messaging.
“Why would law enforcement not use this to receive text messages anonymously to help us fight crime?” Robertson said. “Because the reality is, as I said at the end, the community is instrumental in helping law enforcement combat current crime.”
The prosecutor calls the plan to unite the community “Somerset Strong.”
The app was originally created to report bullying in schools. There is a tab with opioid addiction resources.
The app can also be used to report other issues such as sexual abuse.