CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - The University of Central Arkansas gave its students a new way to feel safe – one they might be more comfortable with compared to other methods.
The UCA Police Department has rolled out a new, free app called Safe@UCA.
“It’s something that we had been looking into for several years,” Officer Michael Hopper with UCAPD said Tuesday. “The technology and the apps have gotten better as time has progressed. And we felt like students today are very tech-savvy, and this sort of thing is right up their alley.”
Hopper said more than 600 people have downloaded the app so far. It was tested in a soft launch for a couple weeks, and the department has promoted the app for another week or so.
“When it first came out, I got it,” UC Sophomore Ketese Smith said, “because they kept saying, ‘everybody should get this app.’”
Fellow Sophomore Luke Monin said he had not downloaded the app yet but planned to. “I’m just happy to hear that the campus police are working to help the people of this community,” he added. “Because everybody’s out here, everybody’s out here on their phones, their texting and doing all this with their phones, so the app is clearly the best way.”
The app includes contact information for UCAPD and other nearby emergency agencies. It also features maps of campus and traffic, live UCA Shuttle tracking, the ability to report a crime tip, and a form to submit sexual misconduct complaints to the university’s Title IX office.
“It’s a really neat application that I think will serve our students well,” Hopper said. “There’s a mobile blue light function on there, so it allows the user to send their exact location via a map, as well as a live one-on-one chat with communication personnel here.”
The app, created by AppArmor, is customizable, so UCAPD can make special sections with information about events such as graduation and move-in day. A move-in-day tab, Hopper explained, “would have information such as what streets are going to be open and closed, which way the traffic’s going to be flowing on the streets in the inside of campus, what halls are going to be moving in and what time, where the best place to park’s going to be.”
The app also has a feature called Friend Walk. If a user is out late at night and does not feel safe, s/he can select a friend from their contact list, and that person will see a real-time map of the user’s movements to show them arriving home safely.
“This is a big campus, and it is open,” Smith noted, “so, of course, at any time of day, people can come in and out of it. And then, everything is so far away, kind of spread out from each other.”
Smith said she had not used the Friend Walk feature yet. She primarily uses the app to call for a courtesy ride from Bear Patrol, the student-led organization that transports students on golf carts anywhere around campus during the evening.
She admitted to being a little surprised when she heard it was available, “but we needed it, at the same time, so I’m grateful that they put out the app.”