Broward Sheriff's Office launches mobile app for reporting suspicious activity

Screenshot of SaferWatch demonstration video. (Photo: SaferWatch App)

Law enforcement in the southern Florida community where a brutal school shooting unfolded earlier this year launched a new mobile app last week for reporting suspicious activity.

SaferWatch allows users to send in tips to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office regarding incidents of bullying, perceived threats and other concerning behaviors in local schools. About 400 schools, including some in other regions of Florida and as far north as Massachusetts, registered to send out continuous updated through the app, according to a report from the Sun Sentinel.

“We want students, parents and faculty to know we’re engaged, and our main focus is to keep schools and children safe,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said during a news conference earlier this month, cautioning the app doesn’t replace 911. “It’s about calls like bullying, information a child might be posting.”

Israel told reporters last week the app already connected a student in need with district officials, a resource officer and mental health services. The Criminal Investigations Division of the BSO will monitor all incoming tips, according to the newspaper.

Israel came under fire in February after investigators learned the BSO received multiple warnings about 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz — a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The department made contact with Cruz and his family more than two dozen times over the last decade for his behavioral issues, but never formally intervened. Tips to federal authorities, including the FBI, about Cruz’s threats to become a school shooter went ignored, too.

Critics argue the institutional failures of law enforcement and the Broward County School District led to Cruz’s deadly Valentine’s Day Rampage at Stoneman Douglas that left 17 dead and 17 wounded. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the insistence of Gov. Rick Scott, initiated an investigation earlier this year into BSO’s botched response to the shooting. Results are still pending.

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