Broward launches Safer­Watch app

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Mar­cia Her­oux Pounds Staff writer

“If you see some­thing, some­thing.”

Send a mes­sage, that is, via a free mo­bile phone app that’s de­signed for school safety.

On Tues­day, the Broward Sher­iff ’s Of­fice in­tro­duced its new app, “Safer­Watch,” just in time for the new school year.

The app can be used by par­ents, fac­ulty, stu­dents and com­mu­nity mem­bers to re­port bul­ly­ing, sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity, or other safety con­cerns.

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Be­sides mes­sages, users can sub­mit pho­tos and video that could be help­ful to law en­force­ment.

“We want stu­dents, par­ents and fac­ulty to know we’re en­gaged, and our main fo­cus is to keep schools and chil­dren safe,” said Broward County Sher­iff Scott Is­rael at the news con­fer­ence. The ini­tia­tive is fo­cused on school safety, but in­for­ma­tion and alerts even­tu­ally will be ex­panded to in­clude Broward com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice.

To find the Broward app, search for “Safer­Watch” in Ap­ple’s App Store or Google Play. Or find in­for­ma­tion on­line at BrowardAlerts.com.

The Sher­iff’s Of­fice said the app, which was avail­able last week, al­ready has about 1,000 users. Maj. Jonathan Ap­pel, who demon­strated the app at the news con­fer­ence, said the Sher­iff’s Of­fice al­ready has had a tip via the app about a stu­dent who needed help. The school, its re­source of­fi­cer and so­cial ser­vices were no­ti­fied, he said.

Mes­sages sent via Safer­Watch can be sub­mit­ted ei­ther with the user’s name or anony­mously. But if there is a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, “we have the abil­ity in our user agree­ment to pur­sue that in­for­ma­tion,” Ap­pel said.

The Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions Divi­sion of the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice will be mon­i­tor­ing the tips, he said.

Users will get in­for­ma­tion and alerts only about the school or schools they have reg­is­tered on the app. “What’s unique about this app is our abil­ity to send out con-

tin­ued up­dates,” Ap­pel said.

The launch of the app comes about six months af­ter the Park­land school shoot­ing on Feb. 14.

Geno Roe­faro, a Boca Ra­ton con­sul­tant whose com­pany Safer­Watch de­vel­oped the Broward app, said it took about six months to de­velop to in­clude more than 400 schools. Roe­faro said he has built sim­i­lar apps for some undis­closed Florida agen­cies and a Mas­sachusetts school district.

The app was de­vel­oped for free by Roe­faro, who said he ex­pects his part­ner­ship with Broward will bring other busi­ness his way.

Palm Beach County launched its school safety app in March, and it has had a com­mu­nity safety app since 2017.

Palm Beach County was first in the tri­county re­gion to launch an app specif­i­cally for school safety af­ter the Park­land tragedy. Known as the “Stu­den­tPro­tect” app, it was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Palm Beach County School District, the district’s school po­lice depart­ment and Palm Beach County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. It was de­signed for par­ents, staff and fac­ulty to re­port threats and sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity and re­ceive in­stant safety alerts on spe­cific schools.

For the app, search “PBC Stu­den­tPro­tect” on your mo­bile phone.

Palm Beach County’s “Con­nec­tPro­tect” app, launched in 2017, pro­vides a di­rect con­nec­tion be­tween the com­mu­nity and the Palm Beach County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. It’s de­signed to let the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice know some­one is in need of help, or to re­port sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity. Search “Palm Beach Sher­iff ’s Of­fice” for the app.

Is­rael cau­tioned that Broward’s Safer­Watch app doesn’t take the place of 911 calls. “It’s about calls like bul­ly­ing, in­for­ma­tion a child might be post­ing,” he said.

Mi­ami-Dade doesn’t have a spe­cific app for school safety, but the county has the “311Direct” app, which can be used to re­port sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity, said Sgt. Car­los Rosario, of the Mi­ami-Dade Po­lice Depart­ment.

But the county does have a Com­mu­nity on Pa­trol app that al­lows res­i­dents to be on pa­trol in their neigh­bor­hoods and re­port crim­i­nal or sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity to the Mi­ami-Dade Po­lice Depart­ment. See Mi­ami- Dade Com­mu­nity on Pa­trol app for more in­for­ma­tion.

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