Governor Touts Smartphone App as Way to Prevent School Shootings

Millions of Texans will soon have the ability to help prevent school shootings in the palm of their hands.

Governor Gregg Abbott said Wednesday that the state wants to make it easier to report concerns directly to the Department of Public Safety by using smart phone technology.

"We are also working to make it easier for students to anonymously report threatening or suspicious behavior with an upgraded mobile app called iWatch Texas," the governor said.

iWatch Texas is currently being used by DPS to share information about potential threats with law enforcement. It can be found on the agency's web page and through the DPS app.

Next month the reporting system will transition to its own separate smart phone app.

"This app has the ability to save lives," said Collin County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Nick Bristow. "The iWatch Texas app will allow teachers, students, and parents to feed information directly into the DPS system on any kind of potential threat."

Reports filed through the app go directly to the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.

The information is then vetted and passed along to one of six regional law enforcement Fusion Centers - where analysts from local, state, and federal agencies gather intelligence and vet security threats.

A threat originating in the Dallas/Fort Worth area would go to the North Texas Fusion Center in McKinney.

The information would be vetted again and passed on to the appropriate law enforcement agency and school district.

"Making sure the information is forwarded to the correct agency is a big part of this. Before, the information might not go to the right people, might not go in a timely manner, might not be there when the information is needed," Bristow said. "By using this iWatch System we know this information is going to be sent to the correct fusion center and distributed to the appropriate agency."

Bristow said that gives law enforcement and school administrators a chance to intervene before it's too late.

As a parent, Bristow said the tool can make schools safer by giving people who may be hesitant to report something suspicious to authorities.

"There is no lack of ways to report information and we are just hoping that people take advantage of this and give us the information on any potential threat they may be dealing with," he said. "Hopefully it encourages people to report this kind of behavior."

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