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iWatch Harris County NPR Interview

Local Sheriff Says Citizens Can Help Prevent Tragedies

July 20, 2012

by: Bill Stamps

Local law enforcement is aware that similar acts of violence — like the the deadly shootings which took place in Aurora, Colorado — can just as easily take place here in Houston. Local law enforcers say prevention is the key. But how?

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has never met the suspect in the Colorado shootings, but he thinks he’s got a good idea what his profile is.

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"I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this person may have been exhibiting some type of mental health issues or concerns, and this is why in law enforcement, as well as in the Harris County Sheriff’s office. I’m so proud to have a unit called the Crisis Intervention Response Team."

That crisis intervention team works with mental health agencies to make sure those who need treatment get the help they need before tragedy occurs. The Houston Police Department has a similar unit.

Garcia says the key to prevention isn’t metal detectors in theaters; it’s the people themselves, letting officers know about suspicious behavior.

"If anyone had had any kind of indication that this may be happening would have been comfortable and confident to come forward with the information, so that law enforcement could have take some proactive and preventative measure."

Sheriff Garcia wants Houstonians to download a cell phone app called iWatch Harris County.

"This is where people can text to us anonymously, things they’re concerned about ,suspicious activity, non-emergency situations. Let us know if you saw someone walk into a theater with a duffle bag, or you saw someone with weapons or a mask."

The public is used to being checked for weapons at sporting events, but may not like the idea of metal detector or bag searches just to watch a movie or a play. Garcia says that’s why the public and law enforcement must work together, so that we can continue to enjoy those freedoms.

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