Story by Courtney Scoby, Contributing writer
Murray State students now have access to a new tool that links directly to local public safety officials: the LiveSafe app, which is free to download, allows students to “share information with friends and safety officials about sexual assault, mental health issues, and violence.”
The app is used on many college campuses nationwide, and can be used to report incidents of theft, vandalism, stalking, assault, harassment, injury and suspicious activity, as well as concerns about an individual’s mental health.
One of the main purposes of the app is to make it easier and more comfortable for students to report issues of concern to authorities.
“The best way to deter crime is to report crime, and students and younger people often have a hard time calling up the police,” said Roy Dunaway, interim chief of police of the Murray State Police Department. “This app capitalizes on social media, with texting as popular as it is.”
One of the features that may make reporting a safety issue to the police more comfortable is the app’s ability to report an issue anonymously.
“We don’t have to know who you are,” he said. “We want to be visible. We want you to feel like you can report something to us, like you can tell us about it.”
The app makes it easy for students to not only report a variety of issues, but also to report issues in a variety of ways.
LiveSafe has text, photo, video, and audio capabilities so that students can report an incident or concern in whichever way they choose. This also allows students to report more discreetly than previous methods of notifying authorities of problems.
“If you’re at a party or somewhere and you see something going on, you don’t want to be the kid that goes ‘Hello, police?” Dunaway said. “But it’s nothing for you to be texting. If a friend was in trouble, or you had fear that they might be, you could snap a picture and text it to us.”
Another feature of the app is called SafeWalk. It allows students to virtually walk with one another to a location. The app uses GPS technology to track both participants and displays them on a map and their location so students can make sure their friends get to their destinations safely, all while communicating through text.
“Some of the big concern is ‘Big Brother’ is watching,” said Jeff Gentry, assistant chief of police. However, students completely control the information that can be accessed by public safety officials, as well as to friends and family who can also use the app, he said.
“You can even let your parent download it and let them see where you are, but you can also stop them from seeing where you are too,” Dunaway said.
Steven Newcomb, senior from Morganton, North Carolina, upon learning of the app said that while he was a bit wary of the app, he saw its benefits.
“It’s just like anything else: there’s good and bad with it, but I would say the good outweighs the bad because it’s going to keep people safe,” Newcomb said.
Dunaway said that the Murray Police Department has already received several tips through the app, and has had “zero glitches” with the new technology.
As of Aug. 24, more than 1,100 students had downloaded the app. As the app grows in popularity, more students are downloading it.
“It’s going up every day,” Gentry said.
Dunaway said he is pleased with these numbers, but hopes that more students continue to download the app.
He said early data indicates twice as many females as males have downloaded the app.
“But campus safety is not gender based,” he said.
The app cost the University $22,140, a price that President Bob Davies said is worth every penny.
He said the LiveSafe app was priced based on the number of undergraduate students enrolled at Murray State, with the price for each student being around $2.
“To me, that is money well spent,” Davies said.