An App Approach to Crime

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

College, for most young people, is the first time they are away from parents and on their own. How they handle experiences while there can be transformative. One new experience that no parent or school wants them to have, however, is an on-campus crime. But crimes do happen, and anything schools can do to improve responsiveness can minimize their impact. With that in mind, Susquehanna University is encouraging students to use a new application for smartphones that helps them quickly notify the school’s public safety department if they see or are the target of criminal activity.

Susquehanna is a small, four-year liberal arts college in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles from Harrisburg. Most of its approximately 2,200 students live within its bucolic 325-acre campus, though some live in adjacent Selinsgrove. Faculty and staff numbering about 600 bring the total population of the campus to about 3,000.

“Selinsgrove is a relatively safe environment. There are obviously crimes at all locations, but most of our issues on campus are thefts, and also underage drinking,” says Tom Rambo, assistant vice president for student life and director of public safety. “Our issues here are basically internal. We don’t have a lot of outside people coming in and committing crimes.” The school has had only a few serious incidents, such as sexual assaults or hate crimes, but “like any college campus, we are concerned about those things,” he says.

The university has a public safety department of eight full-time, nonsworn officers and around-the-clock dispatching abilities. The department works closely with the local and state police, who also perform campus patrols. There are more than 30 CCTV cameras that are monitored by dispatch. Most of these are outside, but there are inside cameras covering ATMs and in the university’s small student nightclub. There are also multiple emergency “blue light” phones throughout the campus.

Rambo says that last summer a colleague at Bucknell University told him about a new product the school was us­ing called EmergenSee U, by EmergenSee U, Inc., of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. “We weren’t specifically looking for a solution to anything, but I was very interested in it and explored a little further,” he states. Rambo ultimately decided that the product might be tantamount to a CCTV camera and blue light phone on the person of every student, staff, and faculty member.



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