Northwestern considers adopting mobile safety app


Sophie Mann/The Daily Northwestern

Associated Student Government, University Police and the Division of Student Affairs are researching an app that would supplement blue emergency lights. The app would include several features that would alert police officers in the case of an emergency.

Emily Chin, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government, University Police and the Division of Student Affairs are collaborating to research a potential safety smartphone app to supplement the blue light system.

Kevin Harris, ASG community relations vice president, and UP started looking during Spring Quarter 2014 at possible apps to implement at Northwestern that could complement existing safety features. The team was initially looking at 10 possible vendors and have narrowed the options down to two for more in-depth study.

Harris, a Weinberg junior, and UP talked to other schools that have implemented similar programs and looked at which apps would work best at NU. Previously, vendors had come to the University to push similar applications, but the technology was new and untested at that time, UP Deputy Chief Daniel McAleer said.

“This was just restarting the conversation now that technology had progressed,” Harris said. “Also, there’s other schools with similar apps.”

Harris and UP both declined to give the names of the two potential vendors for confidentiality reasons. The two finalists have given presentations to UP and the University will select one of them if it chooses to pursue the project.

“They are very different and unique and they work here at Northwestern,” Harris said. “They have similar features that we really like.”

Though NU has blue light emergency telephones on and off campus, the University wanted to add a supplement.

“I don’t think there’s a massive safety issue off campus, but it’s about making students feel safe,” Harris said. “There’s always room for improvement. We can always improve lighting off campus and make students feel safer and more comfortable.”

The applications’ features include a timer, that a student can use to input the amount of time needed to walk somewhere, and turn off at the destination. A warning will go off if it is not turned off in the entered amount of time.

Another feature is a button that a student can put a finger on when feeling unsafe while walking off-campus. Users enter a code once they feel safe, and the police will be alerted if the code is not entered within a certain amount of time.

McAleer said he would like an application to include options for students to contact UP or call 911 in an emergency.

However, Harris said there is a “stigma around calling 911.”

“Maybe they don’t think there’s an emergency,” he said. “Maybe they don’t think it’s worth calling 911. So this is just another option for students to feel safe at all times.”

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