AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police officers cannot be everywhere all the time so after the Sante Fe school shooting, the Texas Department of Public Safety launched a new mobile app. The iWatch is part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to give students and staff inside schools more tools to report suspicious activity.
The state’s online and telephone iWatch reporting system has been up and running for years, but DPS wanted someone to be able to report information anywhere and anytime with their cellphone.
Sgt. Victor Taylor with DPS says it’s “a tool in our toolbox for law enforcement. Because we all know there are not enough law enforcement officers in the state of Texas, however, our citizens are our eyes and ears.”
Taylor says the description of suspicious activity is the most important part. Your name and contact information are optional, to allow for anonymous reports.
Examples of what kind of information should be reported:
- Comments made regarding killing or harming someone.
- Strangers asking questions about building security features and procedures.
- Briefcase, suitcase, backpack or package is left behind.
- Cars or trucks are left in no-parking zones at important buildings.
- Chemical smells or fumes that are unusual for the location.
- People requesting sensitive information, such as blueprints, security plans or VIP travel schedules, without a need to know.
- Purchasing supplies that could be used to make bombs or weapons, or purchasing uniforms without having the proper credentials.
- Taking photographs or videos of security features, such as cameras or checkpoints.
During the Austin bombings, police received thousands of reports of suspicious situations, hardly any were real threats. But Taylor says DPS would rather have too much information than not enough.
“But we ask our citizens to make sure that the information is credible to them as far as they know. And not to send false information, which is a violation of state law,” said Taylor.
The app sends your report into the state’s six regional fusion centers which are already the place where all the departments talk to each other. Analysts then send off valuable information to local officers so information turns into action.
The iWatch app is not a replacement for 911. If there is an emergency or crime in progress, people should still call 911.
“Amid the growing threats to public safety by malicious actors, we want to remind the public that they can be law enforcement’s greatest resource to combat those intent on harming others, including innocent schoolchildren and administrators,” wrote DPS Director Steven McCraw in a release.