THE MAGAZINE

An App Approach to Crime

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

The university installed EmergenSee U as a pilot test program last fall; the trial period ended in the spring.

During the trial, among the users were the student resident advisors (RAs) of the dormitories. The RAs had frequently called public safety to report incidents, such as a group of underage drinkers. But if the drinkers heard the report, they would scamper away. “But by the time we got there, the condition would have changed, and we might not be able to do anything. That can be frustrating to a student worker, and we wanted to support them more,” Rambo says. Perhaps with the app, he explains, the RAs can more covertly alert dispatch.

Officers using the system on patrols also found it helpful. For example, they used the app to send dispatch pictures of hazardous conditions during bad weather so that facilities personnel or the fire department could be notified of the kind of assistance needed.

Rambo says that the technology has functioned as promised. “Like anything, you need to learn how it all works. Once you go through a couple sessions and hit all the right buttons, you get used to it.”

The only minor challenge is making sure you don’t accidentally activate it, he says. “We’ve had very few accidental hits,” he notes, and he even acknowledges having done so himself once. But it is rare and not a real problem.

The pilot test was considered a success and the EmergenSee U app was offered to the campus population as a whole this spring. Rambo says that thus far about 500 students, staff, and faculty have downloaded it.
Public safety is continuing to spread the news of the app’s availability through news­let­ters and fliers, and during new-hire training. Rambo also promotes it during meetings with various university departments and during a self-defense class he teaches. “I tell them to take out their phones right then and download it, if they want,” he says.
The app is free to the campus population, with the university covering costs. He also says that parents to whom he has spoken have told him that knowing the GPS will locate the student even if he or she cannot text or speak gives them increased peace of mind.

“I promote it to students as a personal safety [service],” he states. “I do tell students that...there are records every time it’s used, and that misuse would result in disciplinary action. I’m also promoting it as a bystander tool. A lot of students want to help, but they don’t know how to do it.”

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