A new mobile app launched after a southeast Texas high school shooting last month will allow Texans to report on suspicious activity happening in their own communities and schools.
The iWatchTexas app, introduced this week, will help Texans report potential crimes, terrorism or threats to school safety, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, who directed the Department of Public Safety to develop the app.
“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," Abbott said in a news release Friday announcing the app.
The app can now be downloaded from the App Store for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users.
Plans were already underway for the app before the shooting three weeks ago at Santa Fe High School, which left 10 people dead and 10 others injured. Afterward, Abbott introduced a school safety plan that called for expanding the app's use "to enable and encourage parents, students and teachers to easily report potential harm or criminal activity directed at school students, school employees, and schools."
The plan also called for more school protections and mental health screenings. In addition, Abbott asked lawmakers to consider "red-flag laws," which allows judges to temporarily seize a person's firearms if they're considered an imminent threat.
Reporting a threat on the app can take fewer than five minutes, and reports are reviewed by law enforcement analysts after they're submitted, according to the Department of Public Safety. 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.
“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,” said Steven McCraw, the director of the Department of Public Safety.
Officials noted that all reports are confidential, but the app is not meant to be used to report emergencies — those seeking immediate help should call 911.