Smartphone app might prevent on-campus crime

While conversations on college campus safety have been ignited by recent attacks on campuses across the nation, some universities are turning to apps to improve safety.

Several Big Ten universities, including Ohio State University, are discussing launching a pilot program of the Canadian-based application Guardly, which allows users to give specific incident information — including exact location and which authorities to send — without making a phone call, Guardly sales director Luke Slan said.

“Oftentimes, something happens on a campus, you might not be near (an emergency) light,” Slan said. “It goes a long way for providing peace of mind for students.”

He said in the event of an emergency, students can use the system through a smartphone app to contact authorities immediately. Previously logged incidents or volunteered background information, such as allergies, can be communicated to dispatchers so the right response team and tools are delivered.

Universities have the option to buy the enhanced version of the program, which enables police to monitor the system from their dispatch center.

According to the app description, the basic app contacts friends and family to help in case of an emergency, instead of local authorities.

MSU police do not have a separate dispatch center and use the Ingham County dispatch. Although MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said she could not comment on whether the Guardly system could or would be implemented at MSU, she said MSU was one of the first in the country to have emergency light phones, as well as the first to use a 3-digit police contact system, such as 9-1-1.

MSU has about 170 emergency green light phones on campus, excluding phones in residence halls, she said. The lights are tested about every other week.

Ontario College of Art and Design University Manager of campus security Louis Toromoreno ­— whose university uses the app — said university police have had issues communicating what the system is meant for, but fully implementing the system this semester has given the university access to new information.

“We need to start to think about how can we use technology to make our campuses better,” Toromoreno said of campus security, adding the system might deter crime.

Hospitality business senior Jennifer Miller said following the reported abduction and assault of a Central Michigan University student and a shooting at a Texas community college, the idea of a smartphone app to improve safety might be an added comfort.

“It’s an extra layer of security because if I’m walking alone at night, the phone is right next to me,” Miller said.

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