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Campus safety offcials look to apps for communication

The massacre made her increasingly aware of campus safety issues, and five years later, she became the co-founder of a smartphone application that she hopes will help curb threats to students on campuses.

The application, called LiveSafe , is just one example of how mobile technology is changing the way university campuses monitor safety — and UNC is working on developing its own safety app separate from emergency alert system Alert Carolina.

Anderson said most people on college campuses have smartphones, which makes cell phones the most logical means of communication with police.

“It’s kind of the next phase of safety,” she said.

The UNC Department of Public Safety is looking into converting a current program, Rave Guardian, into an app, said Randy Young, spokesman for DPS.

The program provides a virtual escort, which a student can activate when crossing campus after dark. Young said the student has to deactivate it upon arrival at their residence or an officer will call that phone to follow up.

On Sunday, an armed man brandished a knife at a student near the Pit and sent campus into a lockdown, but Young said the Rave Guardian application would not have helped in that situation.

Students had taken to Twitter and Facebook to share information about the incident, and Young said DPS encourages the use of social media.

“Technology in itself helped to mitigate the situation,” he said. “But I think that the more ways there are to communicate ... the wider an audience we reach in an emergency situation.”

Anderson said LiveSafe allows a student to report tips and emergency situations via text messages, videos or pictures to campus police.

It also allows the police to respond to messages, send push notifications and send timely alerts.

Anderson said many of the solutions for campus safety are reactive rather than proactive.

“The truth is, there’s a chance there to be proactive and prevent something from happening,” she said.

The app was released to students at various universities across eight states last year, she said.

Police Chief John Venuti at Virginia Commonwealth University , one of the schools that uses LiveSafe, said the app is collaborative and innovative — both qualities the university values.

He said the app allows students to submit tips they wouldn’t usually call 911 for, like a suspicious person making female students feel uncomfortable, he said.

The station typically receives between five and 10 tips a day, and approximately 4,700 students, or 13 percent of the student body, have downloaded it, Venuti said.

“Every bit of information that we receive from members of this community is of value,” he said. “I can’t address what I don’t know about.”

Glenn Stockard, spokesman for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said the group has introduced another app called Texas Safety University for students at 174 Texas colleges and universities.

He said the app consolidates resources and information for sexual assault victims, such as phone numbers of counseling centers and Title IX coordinators and also includes crime statistics for particular universities.

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“We wanted to put the resources in the hand of a student,” he said.

Anderson said any mobile phone technology allows for better communication in situations of campus safety.

She said had this technology been available at the time of the Virginia Tech shooting, users could have eliminated a lot of the confusion and possibly even stopped it before it happened.

“People didn’t know because there wasn’t a great clear way to make that information available,” she said.