UC Davis mobile app offers students extra security

UC Davis police dispatchers work on Wednesday
UC Davis police dispatchers work on Wednesday

UC Davis officials rolled out a new public safety application on Wednesday, allowing students to alert police in emergencies and report suspicious activity through text messages.

The mobile phone app from Massachusetts-based Rave Mobile Safety will provide an extra layer of security at night, as students make their way home from class, according to UC Davis police Chief Matt Carmichael.

Students, staff and faculty can create a status, indicating they are walking alone or to a particular location. A timer, with an estimate of the travel time, will begin to count down. If a student reaches the destination OK, the user can disable the timer.

But if something happens, Carmichael said, campus police dispatchers will immediately be notified. They would attempt to contact the individual before dispatching officers to the location.

“This is another piece in the tool kit for protecting students,” Carmichael said, noting that the application makes sense because of millennial students’ perpetual attachment to their smartphones.

“As a society, we’re more apt to text now than to call,” he said. “What’s neat about this application is you can text the police. Sometimes people are shy or nervous to call.”

UC Davis joins more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide that have rolled out the mobile app, according to Todd Miller, vice president of public safety at Rave. The company also counts local governments and public agencies as customers.

Officially called Rave Guardian, Miller said it is meant to supplement emergency kiosks scattered throughout college campuses that can be used to call for help.

Rave Guardian relies on cellular phone data to determine the precise location of the individual seeking help. Carmichael said the accuracy of the mapping technology is largely dependent on the cellular service in the area and can vary by provider.

UC Davis pays $62,250 annually to Rave for a suite of public safety services that also include the campus “Warn Me” system that sends mass emails, texts or phone calls during emergency situations such as a shooting. All the data are processed through Rave’s servers, so there is no hardware for institutions to install, according to Miller.

For students who don’t want to notify police of their activities, there is an option to designate a parent or friend as a “guardian” who would receive the alerts in the event of emergency.

Mark Spangler, director of support services for UC Davis police, said students can choose the amount of information to provide, although a UC Davis email address is required to sign up.

“We don’t want people to see it as Big Brother,” Spangler said.