New app launched by University Police has safety, efficiency in mind

By Jesse Stokes, EDITOR IN CHIEF
On January 9, 2019

The new SAFE app includes options to report a tip, view maps of the campus and has a circulation of the university’s Twitter feed, among other items. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Staying safe on campus got a little bit easier according to the University Police Department (UP) with the launch of their new app designed to be a one-stop shop for members of the USF community.

The app, according to Audrey Clarke, a UP spokesperson, was launched in December and “provides a lot of the safety resources in one place.”

Those resources include a system called: “Friend Walk,” which works in a similar way to iPhone’s Find My Friend app.

“The Friend Walk gives your location to a friend, they accept it, and then you go to your destination and send a notification to your friend saying: ‘Hi, I made it there no problem,’” Clarke said. “If you did not reach your destination or your friend cannot contact you, then your friend can contact the police on your behalf.

“This Friend Walk is between you and your friend, it is not monitored by the police department.”

Clarke said Friend Walk was previously known as “Guardian.”

Captain Meg Ross said another system UP used in the past was “Smart911” — which was a way for community members to upload data about themselves, including any existing medical issues, a picture and contact information that automatically pops up when your device is used to dial 911 — however, the system garnered an underwhelming response in both registration and use.

“Of course, one of the issues with Smart911 is if you are not able to talk, for whatever reason, and someone else is calling 911,” Ross said. “So, if you register with your medical reason, but it may not be your phone that is calling, Smart911 does not have your information.

“We are talking less than 10 times that we actually had the information come through on a 911 call.”

Clarke said that the app is customizable between campuses, which may be helpful for students who attend more than one of the USF locations.

“You can customize the features per campus, so with consolidation, it is excellent if you go over to St. Pete or Sarasota, it will provide contact information for those particular campuses,” Clarke said. “There is some geofencing, so if you go to the USF St. Pete campus, it should send you a notification saying: ‘Hi, would you like to change your preference?’”

Adam Freeman, a university spokesperson, said that none of the emergency notification system options — which include desktop notifications, text message alerts and outdoor sirens — are changing as a result of the app.

Another feature on the SAFE app is the “Report a Tip” option. However, Ross said community members must understand that this is not an alternative to 911.

“It is report a tip, not a crime report,” Ross said. “We are still encouraging people to use 911 for emergencies and the non-emergency line to report a crime.

“911 is for emergencies and I do not want people to confuse all of these things with the fact that 911 is your best response for an emergency.”

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