“How to report a possible community, school safety threat in 10 minutes” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
iWatchTexas is a reporting system that allows Texans to report potential threats in their communities and schools.
The reporting system — launched last year after a shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left 10 people dead and 10 others injured — was briefly mentioned during the first meeting of the Texas House Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety, which met last week to discuss the implementation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s eight executive orders.
The orders mainly focus on strengthening how law enforcement responds to and can prevent future shootings, mainly by improving how members of the public and law enforcement agencies report worries that a person may be a safety threat.
“Our law enforcement officers often rely on vigilant Texans to help keep communities safe, and this new tool will give everyone the ability to quickly and easily communicate with authorities and help prevent future tragedies,” said Gov. Greg Abbott in a press release.
The Texas Tribune repeatedly reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety but never heard back from department officials. The agency also did not respond to several requests for details about how the reports are analyzed once they’re submitted. Information regarding iWatchTexas was gathered from DPS press releases and a program pamphlet.
Where do I submit?
The reporting system is available as a mobile app or through an online portal. You can also phone in your concerns at 844-643-2251. iWatchTexas has a specific section for school-related reports.
How long does it take?
Five to 10 minutes, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
What should be included in a report?
Who: Identify each person involved in the incident, including the victims, suspects and any witnesses. Describe each person in as much detail as possible, including their name, age and physical description along with any other identifiers.
What: Describe the threat or safety concern in detail and include any supporting evidence like photos, video, web links and audio. Officials suggest citizens
may report suspicious activity like:
- Strangers asking questions about building security features and procedures
- Unusual chemical smells or vehicles left in no-parking zones at important buildings
- Comments made regarding killing or harming someone
- A briefcase, suitcase, backpack or package is left behind
- 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
When and where: Detail when you became aware of the threat or safety concern, where and if there is a future date and/or location for it.
Who handles the report once it’s submitted?
All reports are reviewed by law enforcement analysts after they’re submitted. They’re then handed off to officials including school resource officers, district officials or local authorities who may involve other authorities like mental health services or child protective services.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/09/26/iwatchtexas-launches-after-texas-school-shootings-help-prevent-violenc/.
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The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.