Safety? There’s an app for that

A+student+on+her+iPhone+on+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+26%2C+2016.+A+new+app%2C+developed+by+the+UI+Department+of+Public+Safety%2C+is+to+create+a+virtual+guardian+for+students+to+get+home+safely%2C+and+also+feature+a+panic+button+for+911-calling.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FOlivia+Sun%29

A student on her iPhone on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. A new app, developed by the UI Department of Public Safety, is to create a “virtual guardian” for students to get home safely, and also feature a panic button for 911-calling. (The Daily Iowan/Olivia Sun)

By Kayli Reese | [email protected]

The University of Iowa police continue to make advances on securing student safety with a new app for students to download and use.

The UI version of the app, Hawk Watch, has been available for students to use since Oct. 20, said Floyd Johnson, the UI police emergency-management coordinator. The app is powered by Rave Guardian, he said, which is what students will need to search and download in the app store.

Johnson said putting a student email address into a profile on Rave Guardian will access Hawk Watch.

“It gives you different functions others wouldn’t be able to get,” he said.

Those functions include being able to send anonymous crime tips to the police, which Johnson said has been used since the app’s launch. Also, he said Hawk Watch directly allows students to contact both the UI police and a nearby 911 dispatcher.

Also, Hawk Watch allows a student to select a virtual guardian to be aware of a user’s location when wanted. Johnson said a safety timer can be set up when users would like one detailing time of arrival to a safe area and location. The guardian can be the UI police or family and friends, he said.

Johnson said the app was launched because students constantly have mobile devices on them. By creating an app to help with safety concerns, he said, students may feel more comfortable speaking with officers and could bridge the gap between the community and the police.

Hawk Watch is comparable to a mobile blue-cap system, Johnson said.

“If we get everybody to download and use [the app], we can have thousands of blue caps,” he said.

The app asks users to put in information to build their own Hawk Watch profiles, Johnson said, but people should only put in information that they feel comfortable sharing. The only reason the app asks for information is to save time when asking for help, he said.

Johnson also said Hawk Watch is not constantly tracking users; the only time the UI police can see people’s locations is if they specifically request it.

UI sophomore Katelyn Foster said she likes the option of having the app at her disposal. She would use it to connect with her roommate if they are separated late at night, she said.

While she has not necessarily seen anything personally that has made her feel unsafe, she said, she likes knowing the UI police have numerous safety measures in place, such as Nite Ride and blue caps.

“The University of Iowa takes safety very seriously and is very proactive in its measures,” Foster said.

Sara Bultsma, the UI Student Government safety liaison, said Hawk Watch will be an easy and nonemergency way of sharing information with the UI police.

While UISG wasn’t directly involved with the creation of the app, the organization has brought student concerns about safety to the attention of the UI police, she said.

“In the past, students have encouraged the UI police to open lines of communication about safety concerns that do not necessarily deserve a 911 call but still leave students feeling unsafe,” Bultsma said.

Johnson said he has great hopes for Hawk Watch, and it will be a good step in the right direction of improving safety.

“This really is a life safety feature,” he said.

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