Friday, October 15, 2021

MSUPD proposes campus safety app SafeMSU to ASMSU

September 24, 2021
<p>The MSU Union has a large sign that says, &quot;Keep Each Other Safe,&quot; and below the sign is a person walking on campus on March 7, 2021. </p>

The MSU Union has a large sign that says, "Keep Each Other Safe," and below the sign is a person walking on campus on March 7, 2021.

Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

On Thursday night, the Associated Student of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, reviewed a proposed app by Michigan State University Police Department, or MSUPD, called SafeMSU.

MSU Police Public Information Officer Chris Rozman and Deputy Director of the Management Services Bureau John Prush presented SafeMSU with the return of students this fall along with the ongoing issue of campus safety. 

“We have listened to our community during different listening sessions as we engage with students and faculty and staff, and we identified that this was a need on campus,” Rozman said.

The third-party company, AppArmor, which creates and runs SafeMSU, has created safety apps for other Big Ten universities and large public universities in the nation as well.

Rozman and Prush presented a mock-up homepage to the ASMSU with nine customizable main buttons. The sample homepage that they showed may be altered along with the colors, button layout and the content behind each button.

Some of the features presented will not be implemented in the initial launch because the back-end features require a security operation center, which is something that SafeMSU currently does not have.

One feature is Emergency Contacts: the ability to create a custom layout with any desired phone number as speed dial and an option to call MSUPD. 

There are also over 600 MSU GreenLight phones on MSU that are spread across campus near residence halls and sidewalks. Another button, Mobile Bluelight, is an MSU Green Light but at the click of a button on a phone. If used, the app would call a nearby operational security center and if opted to, would share the student’s location with the security operation center as well.

“This is something we would like to do once we have that security operation center rolling, but it’s an example of a feature that the app can do,” Prush said.

Friendwalk is a feature that is already widely used by other universities around the country. Before starting, the SafeMSU app confirms with the student that they will begin sharing their location. Students’ locations will never be shared with the police department unless the student has opted to do so and the location is only shared while Friendwalk is on. 

The student will then be brought to a map of their location and the app will once again let the student know that they will begin sharing their location. After the student chooses their beginning and end location, the app will produce a unique one-time URL link that can be shared with anybody via any communication app.

The person on the receiving end does not have to use SafeMSU to view the map and their friend’s location.

“As you’re walking, it’ll show a breadcrumb trail of where you started and where you’re at until you get to your location,” Prush said.

There will also be an emergency or “panic” button to be pushed at any time when the student feels unsafe. The friend on the other side will instantaneously receive a pop-up that notifies them that the panic button was pushed and from the app, the student can then directly call emergency services.

Once arriving at the designated destination, the URL link will be destroyed so no one can see where the student’s location is.

An additional feature, Report A Tip, is designed to anonymously report a tip to MSUPD. Rozman said this feature may not be used initially but is already built into the system. 

“It would allow you to either report the tip directly to the MSU Police and Public Safety within the app or it would give you a SMS tip link to text that tip as well,” Rozman said.

The next button, the Safety Toolbox, contains quick links to various websites that MSUPD wants students to refer to. Currently, it has links to the MSU Police and Public Safety website or to start a chat with the police.

“We put this up here just as an example that this Safety Toolbox, we plan to build out by listening to the concerns of our community and what students and faculty and staff want included in this app,” Rozman said.

Campus Maps includes maps that can be utilized for students’ use including, but not limited to, a campus map, crime map, transit map and an evacuation map.

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Another feature is the Emergency Plan button that gives immediate instructions when experiencing a specific dangerous incident. Some incidents include an active shooter, bomb threats, fire safety, severe weather or suspicious package.

“When we build this portion of the app out, we’ll include our emergency management division to make sure that these plans accurately reflect our plans here at Michigan State University,”  Rozman said.

To assist students who don't have Internet access or data on campus, SafeMSU does not require Internet access to use the resources within the app, as long as they don’t need to reach out and contact anyone.

SafeMSU will be free to use and is currently a prototype in no hurry to be finished because MSUPD ensures that every student on campus should have the opportunity to speak their opinion on each aspect of the app, Rozman and Prush said.

Although MSUPD is managing the app behind the scenes, the overall goal is to encompass all public safety on campus and to not be branded as by MSUPD, Rozman said. 

“We would really build this out to kind of a one-stop reach to any type of resources that a student might find themselves in need of,” Rozman said. “We have unlimited capability here to be able to drill down and work with CAPS (Counseling and Psychiatric Services) to design, potentially, a one-button push to their crisis communication platforms, to allow immediate access for students to reach out and access those resources."

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