TEMPLE, Texas — As kids head back to the classroom for the second half of the school year, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) wants Texans to remember to download the iWatchTexas app to their phones.
The program, DPS said, is a critical resource for reporting suspicious activity in schools and communities.
"School safety is a top priority for DPS, and iWatchTexas makes it easier for people to report anything suspicious that may indicate a potential threat,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “We must remain vigilant to ensure our children and teachers are safe when they head to school. If anyone sees anything suspicious, it is critical for them to report it with this user-friendly tool. It may ultimately save lives.”
Sergeant Bryan Washko with Texas DPS said they saw three times as many reports made through the iWatchTexas website and app compared to 2020. Sgt. Washko called it a collaborative effort in keeping each other safe.
"Just because you're not trained as law enforcement, everybody has that sense when something is not right or they see something that's suspicious," Sgt. Washko said. "Please, take that second thought and maybe [you] report that one thing. [The last thing] you want is to fail to report and realize that something tragic [has] happened and you saw it first hand and could have prevented it."
According to DPS, one such incident was in September 2021, when a member of the public saw social media posts involving a teen in San Patricio County and made a report via iWatchTexas. DPS and law enforcement agencies in San Patricio County investigated the posts, which revealed the teen had killed his family and was planning an attack on his school, as well.
Sgt. Washko said tips can be reported via the website, the free iOS or Android mobile app or by calling 844-643-2251 and that all reports are kept confidential. For information on how to use iWatchTexas, you can view this how-to video.
Texas DPS wants everyone to know that iWatchTexas is not for emergencies and if there's one occurring, not to report it through the app but to call 911 immediately.