App could give extra layer of protection to UT students

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin’s student government wants to use technology to make the 40 acres, and beyond, safer for everyone. They hope to bring a mobile safety application to campus that would help students safely track their walk home, as well as report incidents like theft and assault.

The university’s student government president and vice president were first inspired by the idea last year during a Big 12 conference.

“We do so much here. We learn, we live, we get to experience things that are once in a lifetime,” said Vice President Taylor Strickland. “But at the same time, what does that mean if you don’t feel safe and secure?”

A senior at UT, Strickland’s time at the university is coming to an end. But thanks to her effort, thousands of students after her may have more control over their safety.

“Nobody feels comfortable walking alone, especially at nighttime when it’s dark,” Strickland added. “I think this is a concept that would help everyone feel more secure.”

Other universities like Arizona State, Georgetown and Virginia Tech are already utilizing safety applications like LiveSafe.

“Some apps have the capability where they can watch you walk and you can send things like your estimated time of arrival,” explains Strickland. “So they know if I didn’t make it home from the library in 11 minutes, then maybe there might be an issue.”

Other apps allow a third party to listen in on your walk home and they can call police if something goes wrong. Others let your friends or relatives track your walk.

“Calling 911 is always the best solution,” said Rhonda Weldon, director of communications for University Operations. “But this just adds an added dimension of added safety for an individual.”

Weldon says the blue emergency call boxes are still an important resource for UT police. However, the call boxes are only on campus, whereas the mobile app can help protect students when they leave.

“A little more of a guarantee that somebody is watching you and somebody cares where you are and when,” Strickland said.

The university will go through a bidding process for existing apps and pick the best fit. Once it is in place, the app could be helpful for anyone, even those who don’t go to UT.

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