Sept. 19, 2013
VCU Police adds mobile app to campus safety toolbox
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VCU Police has brought a powerful new safety tool to campus for the new academic year. The department recently partnered with LiveSafe, a technology startup that has created a mobile app by the same name designed to improve interaction between campus law enforcement agencies and their communities. The app is free to students, faculty, staff and neighbors of VCU and is available for iOS or Android devices.
VCU Police Chief John Venuti views the app as a way to stay ahead of the technology curve and to stay connected with the young student demographic that is his primary constituency.
“I think it’s important because it allows us to open up another channel to communicate with the students so we are accessible and available to them,” Venuti said. “The mobile app is appealing because it’s edgy and it’s easy to use.”
The LiveSafe app allows users to easily submit tips to the VCU Police, similar to the department’s text-a-tip program, with the option for anonymous reporting. The technological leap is that users can geo-tag their tips and add photo, video or audio evidence so police know exactly what is happening and where. Calls to VCU Police made through the app also will include geo-tagging information so officers can respond more efficiently.
The service is monitored 24 hours a day by the department’s on-campus dispatch center, and information that arrives through the appis treated as though it came via telephone. So far, LiveSafe tips have been helpful in identifying suspicious persons on campus, potential physical confrontations before they occur, intoxicated or impaired visitors to campus and noise disturbances. But Venuti emphasizes that there is no problem too small to report using the app.
“The value in the LiveSafe app for a student is having the ability to directly contact the police department for absolutely anything they need, not just emergencies,” Venuti said. “We can only address the problems and issues we’re aware of.”
The app offers other easy-to-use safety features, including functions that allow you to contact campus or local police by phone, a safety map and a “Monitor Me” feature that allows you to share a link with your emergency contacts so they can track your progress if you need to travel somewhere by foot and want a trusted friend or family member to be aware of your location.
VCU Police can use the app to share important safety information with users.
“It also allows us to reach out and contact users with relevant information pertaining to crime prevention, their safety, as well as other things that are going on here at VCU,” Venuti said.
The LiveSafe app was created by graduates of Virginia colleges and universities in response to personal experiences that affected their safety and even threatened their lives. One of those responsible for the app’s creation is Kristina Anderson who survived the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech despite being injured by multiple gunshots.
“My experience at Virginia Tech and throughout college taught me the importance of being very aware of my personal safety and staying informed of my surroundings,” Anderson said. “With more information, we can all make better decisions. I hope students at VCU understand the impact they can have in touching everyone's safety by reaching VCU Police through the LiveSafe app.”
To date, more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff have downloaded the app. VCU Police has worked with LiveSafe to raise awareness of the app in the VCU community through traditional and social media as well as through events such as SOVO Fair and a “LiveSafe Day,” which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, September 27, on The Compass. The event will include games, food, giveaways and information about the app.
LiveSafe has agreed to partner with VCU Police to give away an iPad Mini to one lucky user if the community can get 10,000 downloads by the end of September. All users who have downloaded the app when the community hits 10,000 will automatically be entered to win.
For instructions to download LiveSafe and begin using it, visit http://www.police.vcu.edu/
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