AUSTIN (KXAN) – One year after the Uvalde mass shooting and a push by state leaders to promote the reporting system they say could stop another tragedy, the number of suspicious activity reports being submitted to the state has decreased, according to records obtained by KXAN from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Last year, top state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, touted the suspicious activity reporting network and a primary reporting tool called “iWatchTexas,” as critical methods for alerting law enforcement to people that could commit a violent crime or mass shooting. DPS even used a Chuck Norris public service announcement to advertise the reporting system.
DPS records show the total number of suspicious activity reports dropped nearly 30% last year – from nearly 7,700 in 2021 to about 5,400 in the last year. That trend appears to be continuing. In the first four months of 2023, Texans have submitted about 20% fewer suspicious activity tips compared to the same period last year, DPS records show.
But as the total number of suspicious activity reports is down, the number of school-related reports has gone up.
Reports submitted to Texas’ school safety network are on track to set a new high and already exceed the total submitted in the first four months of last year by 56%, DPS records show.
School safety reports are a subset of the thousands of suspicious activity reports submitted to law enforcement across the state each year.
In 2019 – the first full year the state tracked school safety network threats – law enforcement officials recorded 239 reports. Last year that number jumped to 554. If the current trend holds, 2023’s total will be about 56% higher than last year, which would amount to 860 reports.
KXAN asked DPS for context explaining these suspicious activity reporting trends, and we will update this report with DPS’s answers.
Last June, Abbott called on the heads of DPS, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to “enhance and expedite” their effort to promote iWatch Texas and streamline the process for reporting. Abbott also directed the heads of those agencies to work the Texas’ eight fusion centers to promote suspicious activity reporting.
“Reporting concerning behavior is a key component of intervention strategies to keep schools safe, and it is only through our joint efforts that we will succeed,” Abbott said in the letter.
Fusion Centers are law enforcement hubs that combine federal, state and local police who share information and vet suspicious activity reports.