Campus security: There’s an app for that!

The UNA Police Department is currently working to bring a new three-in-one smartphone application to students.

The app, through the safety and mass notification software company 911 Cellular, would be primarily for campus safety, but it would also provide options to track campus buses and to replace the old parking vendor software, said Kevin Gillilan, chief of University Police.

The safety portion of the Android and iOS app would let students, faculty or staff request a campus police escort, he said. They can also choose to have an officer or contact from their phone monitor their trip through campus via GPS, making sure they arrive at their destination safely.

“If you get there, you can send a message saying, ‘I made it safely,’” he said. “If you forget to send that message, the system automatically notifies the person that you made it.”

On their routes, students can press a button that notifies police if they feel unsafe.

If they are on campus, the app contacts UNA police. If they are off campus, it contacts the nearest police station.

“It basically turns a smartphone into a blue-light safety phone pole,” Gillilan said.

Freshman Terence Humphrey said he plans to download the app when it is available.

“It will be easier to let people know that you made it home safe,” he said. “I think it would be much safer (to let someone monitor my route) than just walking around where I live now.”

About a month ago, Gillilan began discussing the app with the Senate branch of the Student Government Association, said SGA President Nick Lang. Although SGA supports the app, there is a holdup to purchasing it.

Since the app also allows users to track the UNA buses, it would replace the TransLoc bus tracking software SGA purchased in 2012, Lang said. UNA is still in a contract with TransLoc, so they would have to follow through with the agreement before switching over.

“Our university lawyers and Chief (Gillilan) are working on taking care of that contract,” Lang said. “Once that contract is removed, then we, as SGA, can grant them access to changing the app over.”

Lang said he supports the app because of its added safety features.

“The app can actually track students into what classroom they’re in, so if there was an active shooter on campus, someone could press the button on their app, and the police would know where they are,” he said.

Gillilan said UNA is in year three of five with the TransLoc contract. However, he said the Cellular 911 app is a better option for bus tracking because it will allow UNA students to track all buses instead of just the four available with TransLoc.

He said Cellular 911 is also more cost efficient.

“Currently, we’re paying approximately $20,000 a year for just bus routing,” he said. “This application provides additional functionality that we’re not getting, and it’s comparable in price.”

In order to work around the contract restrictions, Gillilan said he is talking with 911 Cellular to see if UNA can use and pay for all features except for bus tracking.

For anyone nervous about having an app that uses GPS location, Gillilan said this app will not infringe on user’s privacy.

“The whole process would be initiated by the student, so there would be no privacy concerns,” he said.

He said the app will not actually track the individual students’ actions.

“It would merely track the location, and that would be sent only to law enforcement.”

Senior Ashley Scruggs said she appreciates UNA making student safety a priority.

“Anything pertaining to safety I’m all for because I feel like there’s been a lack of that since I’ve been here,” she said. “There was that time when they discontinued (Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol), and there’s been way too many incidents with student safety. Anything to do with safety is necessary and long overdue.”