10 mobile apps making campuses safer
The list of mobile phone apps targeting safety-conscious campuses and college students is growing. The heightened concern nationwide about security in the wake of campus shootings and other high-profile incidents, combined with the technical abilities of smart phones, is driving the creation and demand for the safety apps.
Campus police are praising some of the apps for creating a new trove of incident alerts and detailed tips, complete with GPS coordinates, detailed physical descriptions, and photos of potential lawbreakers or license plates. And, they say, the new apps seem to be catching on partly because students feel more comfortable with texting or communicating through the apps instead of calling, which may be an intimidating task.
Here are some of the safety apps on the market now, along with their touted benefits for campuses and students:
CampusSafe sets up a one-touch dial of campus police and other emergency, health care and counseling numbers, along with links to crime prevention tips and other relevant campus information. It also allows users to report minor incidents to campus police through texting forms. Also, it features an emergency button that students can push if they feel unsafe on campus, notifying campus police dispatch of their GPS location, identity and contact information, and starting a phone conversation with dispatch. The company was founded by Rochester Institute of Technology students.
2. Circle of 6
With Circle of 6, a user chooses six friends to contact easily if a potential emergency arises. The chosen friends are sent prewritten text messages that instruct them to call with a pretend request, to interrupt a situation, or to come pick up the user. It also transmits a GPS location and map to the friends, and can call 911 or sexual abuse hotlines.
EmergenSee automatically time-and-date-stamps images captured by the user so they can be used in a criminal investigation. The app allows campuses to set up a Geo-Fence Zone, in which students need only tap the app to signal campus safety officials or professional responders nearby. “Several dozen” universities and colleges have adopted the app, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and it also has applications for K-12 students on field trips. Among the schools listed on its site are Georgetown, Gallaudet, and The Hill School.
Students using Guardly can connect instantaneously with friends and family members during an emergency. The app also allows the user to send photos to police or contacts, view a map that shows nearby friends or family members, or set off an alarm sound on the phone.
5. LifeLine Response
LifeLine Response is an app that can be activated if its user feels unsafe. Once activated, the user puts his or her thumb over the phone, and if the thumb slips off, campus police are notified of the users GPS location and contact information. If the user doesn’t deactivate the notification, a voice and sound alarm is activated with an alert that the police are on their way. More than 30 colleges have adopted the app, including Illinois Wesleyan University, Ohio State University, North Park University, the University of Toledo, and Belmont University.
Virginia Commonwealth University adopted LiveSafe in August and it has since been downloaded 4,200 times. Created by a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, the app allows users to send tips to university police that include GPS locations and photos. Its informational dashboard for campus security officials can be viewed from laptops in patrol cars. The University of Baltimore has also adopted the app.
Users of this safety app can tap a bright red button to send a call if they're in danger. Tapping the button also triggers an alarm, begins recording the call, and transmits the caller’s GPS location. An operator calls 911 if the call is an emergency. MyForce has received praise from campus safety officials at the University of Mississippi, Quincy University, University of Colorado - Denver, and more.
Like other apps on this list, OnWatch that helps the user alert friends and authorities during an emergency. It also features a timed alert to contact friends unless it is disabled by entering a passcode, a location notification and a setting to let friends or family members know when the user has arrived home safely. Created by a 67-year-old grandmother, the app won in the Obama Administration's Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge in 2012.
9. Rave Guardian
Rave Guardian, created by Rave Mobile Safety, features a panic button to give the student a direct connection to campus police, providing a GPS location and personal profile, including medical conditions, course schedule, and a photo ID. It also enables anonymous crime tip reporting through texting. Also, the user can identify friends, roommates, family members, or campus police as “guardians,” and set a timer that, if not deactivated, prompts the guardian to check on the student’s status. The University of Pennsylvania, Howard University, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill are among schools where the app is in use.
Licensed by the University of Florida, TapShield has many of the same types of features as the other apps on this list. One additional feature given extra attention, however, is called “Yank” and transmits an emergency alert to campus police if an earphone plug is yanked from a student’s phone. Its ability to silently communicate with security has also been touted in the K12 market.