University police release new safety app

The UAA Police Department has launched an app providing access to several crisis and safety resources on campus. “UAA Safe” was released on Aug. 27 and is available for students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. Features include a virtual walk-home service and a mobile bluelight emergency button.

UAA Safe provides resources that include a walk-home service and safety notifications. Photo credit: Mariah DeJesus-Remaklus

The bluelight feature allows app users to inform campus police of their location in case of an emergency. By tapping a button in the app’s menu, students can send their location to the police in real time.

Michael Beckner, lieutenant with the university police, thinks that the mobile function has some advantages over the bluelight emergency phones already on campus.

“The bluelight phones we have now are stationary. If you hit a button [in one location], that is where we’re coming to,” Beckner said. “If you hit the bluelight button on your phone and you keep running because someone is after you, we can see you running and know where to go.”

The virtual walk-home function is a tool for users that feel unsafe walking alone. It establishes a direct connection between the user and a police officer, allowing the officer to follow the user’s location on a map. Once the user reaches their destination safely, they can let the police know they made it home and disconnect.

Before the app was released, the police could only offer a walk-home service in person when they were not busy, Beckner said. Although that service is not going away, the app is supposed to make this service easier and more accessible to the students.

All services except the live chat with the police will be available 24 for hours per day.

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A feature called Friend Walk works similarly, allowing users to pick a contact to send their location to. The friend will receive a message with a link taking them to a map with the user’s location. If necessary, they can trigger a call to emergency services.

About 500 people have downloaded UAA Safe during the first week of the semester. Mechanical engineering major Tere Alonso is one of them. She thinks that the app can be a very useful tool for students.

“It’s a nice app to have, especially when you have to walk home when it’s dark outside,” Alonso said. “It would’ve been great to have had it last year already.”

The app’s safety toolbox enables users to share a map with their location, chat with the university police or use their phone as a flashlight. There are also different options to report a tip to the university police department: using an in-app form, calling, texting or reporting anonymously via the Silent Witness option.

UAA Safe also provides contact information of various support resources, such as Standing Together Against Rape, the Student Health and Counselling Center and the Dean of Students.

Other resources available in the UAA Safe App are emergency plans, important safety notifications, emergency contacts and campus safety resources. It also includes a live map of the Seawolf shuttle service and UAA news.

Beckner encourages UAA students to download UAA Safe.

“You may never use it, but it is worth it to have it. It gives you plenty of resources all in one place,” Beckner said.

The app covers the entire campus and some surrounding areas such as Goose Lake and University Lake.

“Crime on campus may be low, but continuous safety awareness is critical to keeping crime at bay. We must work together as a community and remain vigilant in maintaining safety in our community,” Director of Residence Life Amy Snyder and Dean of Students Benjamin Morton wrote in a letter to the students.

The safety app is a product of the AppArmor Mobile software. Other universities like the University of Florida and the University of California, Los Angeles have brought out their own version of the safety app.

UAA Safe is free and available on the App Store and Google Play.

The campus police will offer demonstrations on how to use it. Students are welcome to stop by the department with questions and suggestions for the app.