Utah AG Reveals Benefits of SafeUT App at Federal School Safety Standards Roundtable Hosted by U.S. Senators Rubio and Nelson

Education Week, April 18, 2018 (blogs.edweek.org)

A school safety forum on Capitol Hill hosted by Florida's U.S. senators focused on how to help students head off threats from their peers, and on improving security measures for schools, among other topics.  

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, also used the event here on Wednesday to tout their support for having the federal government offer states incentives to adopt "red flag" laws that prevent those who represent a threat to themselves or others from accessing or purchasing firearms, while preserving legal protetions for those individuals. Rubio and Nelson introduced a bill to this effect, the Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act, last month, after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. 

Advocates and public officials also emphasized the importance of communication at various stages to help address school violence, from making it easier for students to share their concerns with adults, to helping law enforcement respond to violent incidents more quickly.

For full story, click here.


AG Reyes Statement on President Trump's Modification of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement on President Donald J. Trump's modification today of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 

"Today, with the designation of five new monument units, President Trump has taken a historic step to correct the hubris of past administrations. The new designations are much closer in scope to the "smallest areas compatible with proper care and management" of protected objects, as required by the Antiquities Act. These corrections were made after extensive input from local citizens and interests, including tribal members, conservationists, ranchers, hunters, business owners and elected representatives. President Trump and Secretary Zinke have found a balance that considers the needs of our local communities and still protects the singular, stunning, and sacred lands of our state for future generations.

"Over the history of the Antiquities Act, national monuments have been reviewed and modified by subsequent presidents. It is no surprise, given the disproportionate original designations, that President Trump would reduce these monuments to be more consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. Such remedial measures would not be necessary if Congress would clarify the limits of initial monument designations. I echo the statement of Secretary Zinke that executive power under the Act is no substitute for congressional action. We are hopeful that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. will pass legislation that makes political games with Utah’s public lands less likely in the future.

"The Utah Attorney General’s Office will continue to monitor the process with interest and will continue to protect Utah, its people, and its lands, from federal overreach."

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Utah AG Extends Deepest Sympathies to Victims' Families of Las Vegas Shooting

"Our deepest sympathies extend to the families of those who lost their lives and our prayers lift toward heaven on behalf of those recovering or whose lives hang in the balance. In addition to the many civilian lives tragically taken, we mourn the deaths of military veterans and law enforcement personnel killed during and in response to the shooting. The thin blue line of law enforcement is painfully even thinner today.

"As has been the case with other mass shootings that have occurred worldwide in the recent past, perhaps out of the horror and shock of such senseless violence, we can unite in love and unity as a nation and as a global community to demonstrate support for those suffering and to condemn all such acts of unmitigated evil.

"Shortly after the news of the shooting broke on Sunday, I reached out to Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt to offer my concern and condolences and any help they may need. He expressed his appreciation to the State for its concern."


AG Reyes Recognizes World Suicide Prevention Day

Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following extended statement marking World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, 2017:
"I appreciate the efforts of the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) and all of its partners to educate the world on what is a global health threat. I join many other voices worldwide in support of raising awareness and resources to prevent a growing number of suicides. In the U.S., suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and a recent CDC study showed an increased suicide rate every year from 1999 to 2014 among both women and men and in every age group except those 75 and older. The rates of suicide for teens and Military Veterans are particularly alarming. Sadly, Utah is no exception.
"For the last three and a half years, the Office of the Utah Attorney General has led an effort to respond to increased teen suicide, the leading cause of death of Utah children, ages 10-17. We have teamed with legislators, state agencies, mental health clinicians, suicide prevention advocates, the faith community, educators, law enforcement, parents, and teens themselves to address the tragic reality that far too many of our youth feel there is no hope and life is not worth living.
“As we have traveled the state over the last several years, visiting with teens in groups or individually, so many of them have expressed feelings of being alone, judged, or without hope. While adolescence is or was a difficult transition time for nearly all of us, the isolation of today's youth seems more prevalent and more deeply felt. Other factors like depression, being victims of bullying and abuse, eating disorders, drug use and addictions of various kinds, as well as other behavioral health and safety challenges can increase the risk of suicide among teens. 
“Because Utah has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the nation, my office has been leading the School Safety and Crisis Line Commission which last year unveiled the new SafeUT app. It is currently introduced in schools throughout Utah. Those teens in crisis can now access live trained professionals at any time the way they are used to communicating: through a free app on their smart phones available across Android, Apple or other platforms. With the SafeUT app our kids are never alone. 
"We have also worked closely with legislators to create a three digit number similar to 911 in Utah for immediate response to mental health and behavioral crises, including thoughts of or attempts at suicide. This statewide effort has led to discussions and proposed legislation at a national level for a similar 911-type number.  
"Like teens, the number of Military Veterans losing their lives from suicide across our nation is staggering. Daily, those losses number twenty or more. Utah has lost its fair share of Veterans who were willing to give their lives for their country and instead lost them battling personal demons and enemies seen and unseen that were often related to their service. 
“We can all play a part in reversing Utah's devastating trend of teen and Veteran suicide by having real conversations with friends, family, and neighbors. These may be difficult and uncomfortable discussions but the alternative--not communicating--rarely if ever leads to positive outcomes. I challenge all Utahns to engage daily in a positive way with teens and Veterans. Say hello. Recognize them. Smile. Be a mentor or friend. Find ways to connect and to serve them. While this is not a panacea or cure-all, it can go a long way to lifting someone out of darkness and despair. Truly, one of act of kindness can be the difference between life and death.”
Key Features of SafeUT
The SafeUT program and app help youth stay healthy and safe in schools by providing high-quality, confidential counseling services. The app’s key features include:

  • Anonymous, confidential, and password protected services
  • Real-time, two-way communication with SafeUT crisis counselors available 24/7
  • Tips can be submitted with picture and/or video
  • Mobile app works with Apple & Android devices

SafeUT’s Crisis Services
Safe UT answers crisis calls, texts, and chats – about yourself or someone else – 24/7. These services are anonymous and confidential. Our counseling topics include:

  • Suicide
  • Self-harm
  • Emotional crisis
  • Grief and loss
  • Drug and alcohol problems
  • Mental health
  • Abuse
  • Impact of domestic violence

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Deseret News: New U.S. citizens encouraged by Utah AG to infuse culture with American experience

SALT LAKE CITY — Victor Avalos waited 15 years to become a U.S. citizen.

“The immigration process is so long," the 43-year-old from Mexico said.

Avalos came to the United States in 2002 on a tourist visa to attend college and "have a better life," with "better opportunity" for himself and his future wife and children.

Financial problems and complications in the immigration process prevented Avalos from completing his degree, he said. But that didn't stop him from achieving his goal of providing a better life for his family.

After 15 years of working toward it, Avalos was declared a U.S. citizen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Wednesday during a naturalization ceremony at the Utah Capitol.

"We are very grateful that this day has finally come," said Avalos' wife, Kelly Avalos.

Despite the setbacks, Victor and Kelly Avalos now live in Woods Cross with their two children: Nathan, 14, and Isabelle, 11. Victor Avalos also holds a leadership position with Delta Air Lines.

It's those kinds of opportunities, Avalos said, that led him to leave Mexico for the U.S. in 2002.

“When you work really hard for whatever you’re looking for, you can achieve,” he said.

Joined by 124 other new citizens from 38 countries and six continents, Avalos took the oath of allegiance and received a citizenship certificate at the Capitol ceremony.

Daniel Souza, 36, of Brazil, has lived in the United States for 19 years, obtaining various visas to attend BYU and serve a mission in Houston, Texas, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said.

After completing his mission, Souza earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism at BYU and then worked for the LDS Church-owned university. BYU also sponsored his visa and helped him obtain citizenship, he said.

Souza said his favorite thing about the U.S. is the ability to practice the freedoms of religion and expression.

"The rule of law is widely upheld in the United States, and it's welcomed,” he said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, the first minority to hold that office, encouraged the new citizens to embrace their various cultures and "infuse them into the American experience."

"Find a way to teach people about the truths and the beauties that you bring,” Reyes said. "That is what has made America great throughout history, and that is what will continue to make America great."

He also encouraged the group to serve others around them as they "live the American Dream."

“You represent the present and the future of this great country, and one day I hope some of you will serve in appointed and elected office,” Reyes said. "Maybe your children will be the attorney general or the governor of Utah, or the president of the United States.”

Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, conducted the ceremony and spoke about its importance.

“I want to have the dignity and respect to show the people that have been through the naturalization process how important it really is,” Thurston said in an interview. "It’s a process that sometimes people don’t appreciate."

Event moderators also played a video message from Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, who congratulated the new citizens.

To read story at Deseret News and view images, click here.  

Tom Ridge: It is too easy to ship deadly drugs in the mail

As a former governor and the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, my number one priority will always be the safety and security of our nation, so it is with alarm that I have watched the rise of the opioid epidemic across the nation.

Six Utahns are being killed in this growing epidemic every week, and more people are dying nationwide from drug overdoses than from gun violence and car accidents – combined. And as this crisis has evolved, it's turned a little-known security loophole in the global postal system into a serious national security threat, one that has created a pipeline for these deadly opioids directly into our communities.

Every day, nearly one million packages arrive in the United States without critical security data that would assist law enforcement in screening and stopping dangerous packages, including harmful, synthetic drugs. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress took steps to improve the security of the postal system, passing legislation that required private couriers to provide advance digital information on packages from overseas. But while the private sector quickly implemented these new security protocols, the global postal system has yet to adapt – making it the favored avenue for bad actors abroad seeking to send dangerous, illegal packages into our country.

We are seeing this play out in the opioid epidemic. Powerful synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and carfentanil, are increasingly manufactured in foreign laboratories, purchased on the "dark web" from Chinese manufacturers and shipped through the global postal system. In fact, a February report by the U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission identified China as the primary source for illicit fentanyl in the United States.

This supply of deadly drugs from overseas is fueling the rapidly growing epidemic, and our communities are feeling the impact. In Utah, officials are undertaking admirable efforts to address this public health crisis, including the Utah Department of Health's new "Talk To Your Pharmacist" initiative and the formation of the state's new opioid task force, chaired by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Drug Enforcement Agency District Agent in Charge Brian Besser. However, officials are facing an uphill battle trying to combat this epidemic even as our communities are flooded with new deadly, synthetic drugs every day. To truly address this epidemic, we need to do all we can to shut down the easy supply of these drugs.

To read entire Op Ed, click here.


A Law Enforcement View of Judge Neil Gorsuch by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

Many positive things have been and will be said about Judge Neil Gorsuch leading up to his confirmation hearing. Deservedly so. There is a lot to like about him, including his intellect and commitment to textualism. But some have wondered: if Judge Gorsuch is confirmed as Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor, would he change the arc of Supreme Court decisions on criminal law and procedure, issues critical to a prosecutorial office like my own?

Judge Gorsuch’s record as a federal appeals judge seems to indicate the answer is no: His opinions, like Scalia’s, balance the interests of law enforcement with individual liberty.

Justice Scalia recognized that some of the government’s most consequential powers are those it brings to bear in the criminal justice system. We rightly count on the state to protect us from criminals and to appropriately mete out justice for broken laws. If the state failed to fulfill those functions, anarchy would reign. But the government’s powers to investigate crime and to indict defendants can result in serious intrusions on individual liberty. And government-sponsored loss of liberty leads to tyranny.

Those tensions caused the Founders to limit the government’s criminal-justice powers through structural safeguards enshrined in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. Good judges defend those safeguards, insisting that the government honor them while enforcing the law.

Justice Scalia and Judge Gorsuch both fit that mold. To show their similarities, consider these four excerpts, two from each judge’s criminal law opinions. Before jumping to the answers below, can you identify each passage’s author?

1. “Instead of setting forth exact limits of the government’s search and seizure powers in some numbingly detailed (and no doubt quickly antiquated) list of do’s and don’ts, the framers of the Fourth Amendment more simply and ingeniously forbade all ‘unreasonable searches and seizures.’”

2. “Drunken driving is a serious matter, but so is the loss of our freedom to come and go as we please without police interference. To prevent and detect murder we do not allow searches without probable cause or targeted [investigatory] stops without reasonable suspicion. We should not do so for drunken driving either.”

3. “The Fourth Amendment’s protection of the home has never been tied to measurement of the quality or quantity of information obtained.”

4. “Since time out of mind the law has prevented agents from exercising powers their principals do not possess and so cannot delegate. That is a rule of law the founders knew, understood, and undoubtedly relied upon when they drafted the Fourth Amendment—for what would have been the point of the Amendment if the government could have instantly rendered it a dead letter by the simple expedient of delegating to agents investigative work it was forbidden from undertaking itself?”

For those keeping score, the authors are (1) Gorsuch (dissenting in United States v. Nicholson), (2) Scalia (dissenting in Navarette v. California), (3) Scalia (in Kyllo v. United States), and (4) Gorsuch (in United States v. Ackerman).

So Americans of all political stripes need look no further than Judge Gorsuch’s own words to reassure themselves that he strives to strike the same careful balance as Justice Scalia on critical criminal-law issues. We can count on him, as Justice Gorsuch, to join opinions reminding prosecutors that their duty in a criminal case—for the good of all Americans—is not that they “shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.”


Fox13 | AG Reyes speaks at University of Utah symposium on fighting human trafficking

To watch broadcast: http://fox13now.com/2017/02/19/university-of-utah-hosts-symposium-on-fighting-human-trafficking/


SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a global problem we see in our own backyard. Every year, millions are caught up in human trafficking.

This week, community leaders who work to combat modern-day slavery spoke at a University of Utah symposium.

“I have heard of young women literally being snatched off the street,” said Laura Lederer, President of GlobalCenturion.com and the keynote speaker at the symposium. “But more often you hear the kind of the luring, the enticing, the Romeo-ing, the kind of false promises.”

Experts say we're only just beginning to realize how big human trafficking really is.

“It’s happening here in Utah,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said. “It's happening throughout the United States.”

Video you'll only see on Fox 13 shows the largest human trafficking bust in state history. In 2015, members of the Utah Attorney General's SECURE Strike Force served warrants on 11 massage parlors from Ogden to West Jordan.

“And certainly they probably don't think, you know, a few doors down that there could be a monster like Victor Rax, who was in West Valley City, Utah, for over a decade, torturing victims,” Reyes said.

Lederer is the president and founder of GlobalCenturion.org, an organization dedicated to fighting modern slavery.

“We’re actually doing a comparative analysis,” she said. “We're pulling 60 data points so that we can build victim profiles, perpetrator profiles, crime profiles, and we can understand a lot more by looking at the case-law.”

She describes the sex and labor trafficking industries as a triangle: supply, demand and distribution. But she said one side still requires a lot of work.

“We need to understand, who are the buyers—on both labor trafficking and sex trafficking? And how do we reach them to tell them and change their behavior so they're part of the solution and not part of the problem?” Lederer asked.

Speaking before a packed room, Reyes says the key is communities across the globe uniting to make a change.

“I don't think we can truly protect our communities locally unless we take a global approach, work with partners around the world, to keep human trafficking from coming into our borders,” he said.


The Herald Journal: App allows students to connect to crisis counselors

by Sean Dolan, staff writer

Two Cache County high schools are recommending a smartphone app that allows students to easily contact licensed social workers or submit a confidential tip about a peer who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

Last September, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes unveiled the app, called SafeUT, citing statistics that show suicide is the leading cause of death of Utah children aged 10 to 17. Utah also leads the nation in the teen suicide rate.

“Those in crisis can now access live trained professionals at any time the way they are used to communicating, through a smart app on their phones,” Reyes stated.

The anonymous app allows students to call or text directly with trained professionals at the University of Utah if they are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. If a student has a concern about someone else, they can submit a tip with options to include the person involved, the date, time, location and an option to add a picture. The categories available in a drop­down menu include abuse, cutting, cyberbullying, drugs, gangs, planned school attack, suicide and weapons.

Anyone can download and use the app, but schools that have enrolled in the program will have anonymous tips forwarded to school counselors.

Ridgeline and Mountain Crest high schools introduced the app to students Jan. 9 at the end of an anti­pornography assembly. The app will be rolled out to other Cache County schools later in the school year.

Jennifer Loscher, school counselor at Ridgeline High, said she likes having a tool that connects students to trained social workers and therapists. She said most crisis lines use volunteers who don’t know what signs to look for, what questions to ask or how to asses a threat level.

“It’s a pretty significant difference,” Loscher said.

The crisis and tip lines are available 24/7, while school counselors usually aren’t available outside of school hours.

“If a student needs to call and talk about being suicidal at two in the morning, which is when that usually happens, then they can call or text and talk with someone right then,” Loscher said.

In the app’s first month at Ridgeline High, Loscher said they have received about eight tips, with two or three related to suicide.

“Some of those are very benign, but some are pretty serious,” Loscher said. Tim Smith, Cache County School District public information officer, said the district previously used a program called anonymoustips.com, but the SafeUT app adds a new element of connecting students with counselors at UofU. He said having an anonymous tool is beneficial.

“I think the anonymous part plays into that kind of psychology (that) kids are going to be more willing to report some issues if they know they don’t have to be identified,” Smith said.

In the Logan City School District, Superintendent Frank Schofield said he has had conversations with some counseling staff about the app, but it has not been implemented.

“It’s a great tool; it just gives kids a chance to — when they are feeling stressed — it gives them a chance to respond,” Schofield said.


Utah AG Urges Swift Confirmation of President Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Judge Gorsuch

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes  released the following statement after President Trump nominated 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court:        

“I applaud President Trump's decision to nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch, a committed textualist and fellow westerner, to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Reyes. “By any objective measure, Judge Gorsuch is a sterling, eminently qualified nominee in the mainstream of American jurists. His decade-long record on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate, shows that if he is confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will bring to the nation's highest Court a keen intellect, a vibrant pen, and a healthy respect for the judiciary’s proper role in our constitutional system. I urge the Senate to give Judge Gorsuch the up-or-down vote he deserves, and to confirm him as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”