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Watch center proposed

by | May 24, 2023 | Latest

Speaking on the importance of identifying and preventing school shooting threats, a representative from the Collin County Sheriff’s Office presented a proposal for a watch center funded by school districts.

The North Texas Fusion Center, which exists under the current Collin County Sheriff’s Office, presented its plan to hire more analysts dedicated to identifying potential mass shootings and taking appropriate intervention during the Monday, May 15, Wylie ISD Board of Trustees meeting. Malcolm McLaughlin, the director of the center, said the new initiative — called the Collin County Watch Center — would be funded by local school districts and provide 24/7 coverage in three shifts.

Since 2017, there has been a spike in school shooting incidents, said McLaughlin, necessitating a need for more attention.

“What’s most concerning is the spike of casualties in shootings is embedded in an even larger spike of active shooting events occuring on campuses,” McLaughlin said. “Although the rate of casualties has gone up about threefold the last seven years, the rate of incidents has gone up more than fivefold.” 

While the enhanced detection will not prevent another mass casualty shooting, the director said there are indicators the center could watch for, such as diagnosed or undiagnosed symptoms of mental illness, social media activity and ideation up to two years before an event and understanding that people shoot places they know. McLaughlin continued that around 94% of shooters are male while 6% are female with a number of shooters having a grievance against the place they attack.

The Collin County Watch Center will be exclusively dedicated to identifying the threats and informing law enforcement to take action, if necessary, said McLaughlin. 

“It’s not about investigations and arrests,” McLaughlin said. “It’s about interventions and assistance. These tips come from the public domain, such as social media, government advisories and tip reporting platforms.”

The initial cost to staff the Collin County Watch Center with three shifts of three analysts and a supervisor would be around $1.4 million with a $1.2 million allocation to sustain it annually. McLaughlin said it would cost around $4 or $5 per student based on the countywide student population.

Wylie ISD Superintendent David Vinson said he estimated the cost to the district at $80,000 annually.

Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said the new center would provide quarterly updates and data products to stakeholders, if it is funded.

“At the end of the day, it’s your watch center,” Skinner said. “You’re the ones who promulgate the rules, create the board and oversight and these types of things.”

He said he is confident interventions are possible if the analysts are able to perform their duties.

“I’m a firm believer based on the data that with the right kind of work done the right kind of way, we can intervene on these things,” Skinner said. “We do understand that in almost all cases, there is leakage and we propose the right apparatus to detect it.”

For the full story, see the May 24 issue of The Wylie News.

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