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Suicide prevention has become issue number one in the Parkland and Coral Springs community, since two teenagers died by suicide in recent weeks. Both deaths are considered fallout from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
The MSD Safety Commission raised the suicide prevention issue at last week’s meeting, with some commissioners saying important tools are not getting enough attention. They were talking about free mobile applications such as SaferWatch and Fortify Florida.
“Really, the powerful thing about SaferWatch is it allows people to take a photo or take a video and send that information in and that goes directly to law enforcement in real time,” said SaferWatch CEO, Geno Roefaro.
SaferWatch was introduced by the Broward Sheriff’s Office last August, just before the school year started.
“To have this app that allows somebody to have direct access to law enforcement, to be able to potentially save a life, to me it’s a no-brainer,” said Scott Brooks, the mayor of Coral Springs.
Brook and MSD Safety Commission member Max Schachter, who lost his son, Alex, in the MSD shootings, say SaferWatch should be on every student’s cellphone.
“Broward County Schools has 240,000 kids in their school every day, they have the responsibility to make all their children understand that if they see something, if they hear something, this is the way to report it, this will save lives and prevent the next school attack,” Schachter said.
SaferWatch is prominently featured on the Broward County Public Schools’ website in several places, with instructions on how to download the free app and how to use it. The school district has notified parents, students, and the general public several times about SaferWatch and Fortify Florida, which is the special incident reporting app introduced by the Florida Department of Education, and says it will continue its “see something, say something” push.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office says so far, SaferWatch has generated 325 total tips to BSO. Others have gone to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and to the Davie Police Department, which have recently joined SaferWatch.
Of the 325 tips to BSO, 10 were for bullying, 11 were for school threats which led to five arrests, and three were for suicide threats, including, Roefaro says, one from the MSD community.
“Fortunately, thanks to a student who submitted a tip, and thanks to the great work of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, they were able to quickly make contact with that student and quickly get that person help that they needed,” Roefaro said, claiming that tip saved a life.
That’s a powerful testimonial, and reason enough for people to download the app.
Police say, however, that if an actual emergency is happening, everyone’s first step should still be to call 911.