AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin's police department has launched a new free app to help students, faculty and staff report things more easily.
UT community members can report suspicious activity and incidents directly through the app. They can also attach pictures, videos or audio files to their report. UTPD dispatchers will then share this information with officers.
"The idea is that this gives them real opportunity to give us real-time information if they see a dangerous situation of some kind," UTPD Chief David Carter said.
Additionally, the app's users can dial for emergency services from the app. If they're on the UT campus, the app will ring UTPD. But if they're off campus or anywhere else in the world, the app will ring local emergency services.
"If you're, for example, overseas, if you're in London or Paris, if you hit the button there, it will connect you to the emergency services in that particular location," Carter said. "What we want to do is we want to connect a student to the people that can best respond most quickly to their particular challenge or emergency."
The app also lets someone virtually escort their friend or loved one to make sure they arrive somewhere safely. The feature has been used more than 150 times since the app's release.
"Maybe they're walking to, you know, an apartment off campus or something like that. They can use this feature to contact, basically, flag three of their contacts that they have chosen to be their virtual escort. And once they arrive at their destination, then the alert basically cancels," Carter said. "But if for whatever reason something is amiss and the student doesn't check in, then the contacts that are selected by the student, faculty or staff member are then notified as well. They can also contact UTPD."
All incoming freshmen were made aware of the app during the virtual orientation, but its official launch day was Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Since launch day, at least 1,000 people have downloaded the app. More than 2,300 people have downloaded it since the university it introduced to freshmen students, according to a UTPD spokesperson.
"A community that's engaged with their police but also engaged with their other government services is really one that's going to be safer and also engaged with their friends and family as well. And so by bringing this app affords us that opportunity to bring everybody together to kind of address those kinds of safety features," Carter said.
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