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Delaware County officials provide update on county and school safety plans

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Delaware County Council Chairman John McBlain and District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland provided an update at the Delaware County Emergency Services Center in Middletown on the resources and tools available to schools in Delaware County to help keep students safe from threats and acts of violence.

In the aftermath of the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Delaware County Council and the District Attorney’s office sought funding to install panic buttons in every school in the county, including public, private, parochial and accredited kindergarten programs.

In Delaware County, all 230 schools received a panic button in 2013 that directly and immediately alerts law enforcement to a dangerous intruder or potential threat to the students and staff known a system known as the Delaware County Panic Alarm School System (DelPASS).

“The benefit of a silent panic button is that it is instantaneous. By pushing a button, there is an immediate code red alert to the 911 Center,” said County Council Chairman John P. McBlain. “There is also an audio component that allows 911 dispatchers to hear events occurring in real time and to relay exactly what is happening to responding law enforcement.”

Chairman McBlain said silent alarms are critical in situations where someone cannot reach a landline or use a cellphone. The Delaware County system utilizes a dedicated, secure phone line to reach the 911 Center.

“Two days after Sandy Hook, County Council and the District Attorney met with the school superintendents, at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and we looked at ways we could improve school safety,” said Chairman McBlain. “The superintendents indicated they believed silent alarms or panic buttons would greatly enhance safety so we immediately sought funding to make that happen. We are continually meeting with our schools and local law enforcement to look at ways to improve school safety.”

District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland said her office continually works with school personnel, law enforcement and emergency responders to enhance school safety. Each year, the District Attorney hosts a Safe Schools Summit focused on responding to an active shooter in the school including focusing on preventing and responding to active shooter scenarios.

“In Delaware County, we have great schools. It is our goal to ensure learning can happen in a safe and secure environment. The panic buttons are another layer of technology that we have available to make our schools safer and to help law enforcement respond more quickly to a threat,” said District Attorney Copeland. “As the chief law enforcement officer for Delaware County, combined with the strengths of our partners on Delaware County Council and our dedicated police officers, we will continue to work together to protect our schools.”

She said that speed of response to an emergency in a school is critical and that in recent cases, the violence takes place in the first few minutes that the intruder is on site. “Saving time saves lives when it comes to emergency response,” said District Attorney Copeland. “These silent alarms greatly reduce the time gap between someone recognizing a threat and calling for and getting help. We are constantly training and conducting drills on school safety, but we can never get complacent when it comes to the well-being of our students and teachers,” said District Attorney Copeland.

For the DelPASS system, when the button is pushed, a recorded message is immediately sent to the 911 Center, including the school name and address and device location. In addition to the audio message to a 911 call taker, a digital message appears on the call taker’s screen. Police are immediately dispatched and the dispatcher can continue to listen to the sounds of the incident. If the police confirm the incident as active, the 911 dispatcher can also use the RSAN system to alert school leaders.

The newest component that is being jointly funded by Delaware County Council and the District Attorney’s Office, is the 911 Center Command sector, located at the Department of Emergency Services. The Command Center uses video capabilities and social media to gain enhanced situational awareness of emergency scenes.

“All of our public schools attended by 71,000 students in Delaware County, plus private and parochial schools with thousands of students have received this system. It is our goal to make each school community as safe as humanly possible using the latest resources and technology,” said Chairman McBlain. “Of course we hope the panic buttons are never needed, but we want our school families to be reassured that help stands ready at the push of that red button.”

Chairman McBlain noted that there are resources available for residents who may be at risk for emotional crisis through the Delaware County Crisis Connects Team (DCCCT).

“We strongly believe that emotional and mental health is a community issue, not just an individual issue,” said Chairman McBlain. “In Delaware County, concerned members of the community can access Mobile Crisis when they feel that someone else requires immediate psychiatric evaluation. If you, or someone else, need immediate help with a mental health or substance abuse issue, Crisis Connections Team Mobile Crisis can come to you. You can call mobile crisis at 1-855-889-7827 any time of the day or night.”

The Delaware County Crisis Connections Team program was developed and is managed by Elwyn Crisis Services on behalf of the Delaware County Office of Behavioral Health and Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania, Inc. Crisis services offered by the program are available free of charge to all children and adults residing in Delaware County. For information, you can visit the Department of Human Services at

DCCCT Mobile Crisis is available 24 hours a day, every day of the week by calling 1-855-889-7827


CONTACT PERSON: Emily Harris, 610-891-4943; Adrienne Marofsky, 610-306-4497

Aston man sentenced for patronizing victim of human trafficking

Media, Pa – Today Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun “Kat” M. Copeland announced 40-year-old Matthew Jeffrey Sipps of Aston is the first in Delaware County to be sentenced under Pennsylvania’s human trafficking legislation for engaging in a sex act with a victim while knowing that the act was the result of that individual being a victim of human trafficking.

Sipps was sentenced to 12-60 months in state prison followed by five years of state sex offender probation after being found guilty of the lead charge of patronizing a victim of sexual servitude (F2), concealing the whereabouts of a child (F3) and corruption of minors (M1).

Matthew Jeffrey Sipps, 40, of the 100 block of Sweigart Lane in Aston was charged December 5, 2016 following the conclusion of an investigation into a missing 16-year-old victim, which was conducted by Det. Mark Bucci of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Child Abuse Unit and Sgt. Michael Ruggieri of the Aston Township Police Department.

The investigation began when Officer Thomas Hearty of the Aston Township Police Department was contacted by North Providence Rhode Island Police Department concerning the whereabouts of a 16-year-old female victim who had been missing from her home for eight weeks. According to police, the victim contacted her mother to be picked up from 110 Sweigart Lane in Aston Township.

During the course of the investigation, detectives learned that the victim made contact with a man named “Jordan” who picked up the victim from her hometown in Rhode Island and drove her to a hotel in New Jersey where he had sexual intercourse with her several times. He then posted her photos online as an advertisement for escort services. In March 2015, Matthew Sipps responded to that advertisement and arranged to meet the victim at a hotel. Sipps went to the hotel and paid the victim for sex. Sipps then took the victim to his home in Aston where she stayed for a month. Sipps told the victim to not leave, stay in Sipps room and to not socialize with his family. For over a week she told Sipps that she wanted to go home but he would not let her leave the house. Eventually Sipps provided the victim with a cell phone in his name and the victim contacted her mother in Rhode Island who then contacted local police about the whereabouts of her missing daughter.

FBI Special Agent Michael Goodhue and Det. Bucci met with Sipps who admitted to meeting the victim at motel in Marple Shade, New Jersey, after calling the phone number on Backpage. Sipps was arrested on December 5, 2016 for patronizing a victim of sexual servitude.

Through the course of a separate federal investigation, the individual known as “Jordan” was identified as Raymond Justis. On March 30, 2016, Justis pled guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking a minor and was sentenced 14 years in federal prison following the prosecution in Federal Court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Morgan.

“I would like to commend CID Det. Bucci, Sgt. Michael Ruggieri of Aston Police, Assistant District Attorney Alan Borowsky who prosecuted the case, Special Agent Michael Goodhue, Special Agent Jennifer Batish and AUSA Michelle Morgan as well as Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and the Delaware County Women Against Rape (WAR) for providing assistance to ensure a thorough and complete investigation,” said District Attorney Katayoun Copeland. “Their hard work and collaboration led to the arrest and conviction of two predators, and most importantly, ensured that the child victim was returned to a safe, healthy environment. Together, we are committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting those who traffic and exploit children for their own selfish gain.”



CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris, 610.891.4943