State launches iWatchTexas Mobile App to combat school threats

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - The Texas Department of Public Safety wants you to use a smartphone to report suspicious activity.

“All the information that’s entered on this app is kept confidential,” said Sgt. Jimmy Morgan with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Last week, the agency unveiled a mobile app called iWatchTexas. The app is supposed to make it easier for people to report criminal, terroristic or school-safety related threats.

“If someone is sitting there asking questions about security or maybe taking pictures of a building or maybe someone is leaving a parked car or briefcase down,” said Morgan. “Things in your area that strike you as not being right.”

The app comes on the heels of a school shooting last month in Santa Fe. Governor Abbott held several meetings following the shooting to improve school safety; the app was one of the solutions.

“We wish we didn’t have to use these types of apps and that we didn’t have these types of activities going on,” said Morgan. “Obviously it seems like we do and so it’s another tool again for the public to help law enforcement out and maybe we can save some lives when it’s all said and done.”

Morgan says the app will be helpful to law enforcement but reminds the public to call 911 in case of an emergency.

“This is not in place of a 911 call,” he said. “We certainly want to make sure people use that number for emergency situations.”

If you don’t have a smartphone you can report suspicious activity through the iWatch Texas program via the new mobile app, online at www.iwatchtx.org or by calling 1-844-643-2251.

A report usually takes fewer than five minutes to complete, and once submitted, each report is reviewed by law enforcement analysts.

The department says preparations for crime; terrorist attacks and threats to school safety may often be seen but not reported. They encourage people to speak up.

Here are some examples of behaviors and activities to report:

• 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.