Weslaco school district, police, bring crime stoppers app to campuses

This photo shows the Weslaco school district’s new crime stoppers app. (Francisco Jimenez | The Monitor)

WESLACO — Police here have partnered with the school district and crime stoppers to create a phone application that will improve the safety of students and teachers, officials say.

The Weslaco Police Department, Weslaco Crime Stoppers and the Weslaco school district have launched the P3 Campus app, which operates like the P3 Tips phone application.

“When I was first appointed as Chief of Police in 2018, one of the priorities that the commission gave me was school safety and security, and to make sure that we’re as prepared as we can be to ensure the safety of our kids, the faculty and staff at our schools,” Weslaco Chief of Police Joel Rivera said. “We endeavored into that at the PD and created a partnership with Weslaco ISD.”

Rivera said that the first phase of that collaboration was the implementation of police officers on campuses. The next phase of the collaboration involves the leveraging of tools in order to enhance their presence at the school district, such as the new app.

Like the Crime Stoppers P3 Tips app, students and staff are able to download the P3 Campus app to their phones and make anonymous tips. The app allows the user to submit photos and text anonymously with Crime Stoppers coordinators.

“Kids are very tech-savvy today, and everybody has a cell phone,” Rivera said. “It fits, hand-in-glove, to be able to provide this service that Crime Stoppers does because they help us do our job. Our biggest partner is the community. That is the number one partner that the PD has to ensure the safety and security of not just the community but the schools now.”

Jose “J.P.” Rodriguez, who serves as mayor pro tem for the city of Weslaco, also sits on the board for the Weslaco Crime Stoppers. He explained that the app will allow students and staff to provide tips pertaining to drugs, weapons or students who may be in crisis.

“It’s all meant to help us work together, the law enforcement body with the school district and the students and the faculty, so that we can try to make things safer,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously, safety has been a problem in the schools throughout the nation. Sometimes, one of the recurring themes is always, ‘There was information out there. This person knew this about that person, and it never made its way into the hands of the people who could have made a difference.’”

Rodriguez said that he hopes Weslaco ISD students and staff will be encouraged to use the new app, which went live on Jan. 4. He said that the P3 Tips app has been successful for the community, and he hopes that translates to the P3 Campus app.

In the first week that the app was introduced to the community, the organization received roughly 25 tips, according to Weslaco Crime Stoppers Board President Ramon Resendez.

“It’s multifaceted,” Resendez said. “It’s not just drugs and violence. It’s also threats of self-harm, somebody who is not feeling well or not doing well and may want to hurt themselves. If a friend knows about, they can report it through the hotline because they don’t want the friend to know. So now, somebody gets to say, ‘Hey, is everything alright? Is there something you need help with?’”

The Weslaco police chief said that the Crime Stoppers program is labor intensive due to the number of anonymous tips his department receives, but he said that the elevated workload is a good problem to have if it means increasing safety and security in the community.

“Our biggest goal is to try to ensure that we have a safe environment for students and staff in the schools,” Resendez said. “I think that’s our ultimate goal, whether it be illicit drugs, potential violence, or even self-harm, if we’re able to minimize any or all of those three, then I think that we’ve done something great for the community. That’s the goal that we’ve always had.”