Temple University is rolling out Rave Guardian – a campus safety app offering virtual escorts, a panic button and text dispatch to the university’s police department and 911 – today. This is the first time Campus Safety Services has used a mobile app.
The app is only available to students and faculty, but Temple hopes to soon connect with other universities to expand their services, said Charles Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services.
Temple’s partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department is not affected by the app’s rollout, meaning both departments may still be dispatched when the Temple University Police Department receives a report, depending on the location and situation.
The app has a virtual escort feature that allows students to have TUPD monitor them as they walk from one place to another. Students enter their starting location and receive a custom pin to enter when they reach their destination. TUPD calls students who don’t enter their pins after reaching their destination and sends responders to their location if they don’t answer their call.
Students can also directly text with TUPD through the app, including sending pictures or videos. It has a panic button for emergency situations – medical or otherwise – that puts users in contact with TUPD’s dispatch center.
“There were a lot of students asking, ‘Can we get in touch with your dispatchers by texting or something? We don’t want to call because it may be an instance when we can’t call when we feel uncomfortable and call,” Leone said.
Temple is allowing students using the app to keep their communications anonymous.
“Being able to just send a picture or send a text is so much more easier and convenient for the police department to be able to assess what is the top priority and what is the lowest priority,” said Dominique Vinson, a sophomore university studies major.
Between Jan. 15 and Feb. 10, TUPD received 86 reports of crime within their policing zone, according to The Temple News’ crime dashboard.
Campus Safety Services’ introduced its plan to use Rave Guardian at its Dec. 3 forum on gun violence and public safety, where it also announced intentions to increase its forces by 50 percent. The forum came days after Samuel Collington, a 21-year-old political science major, was fatally shot a few blocks from Main Campus.
TUPD is working with Drexel University to train dispatchers before allowing student access to the app. Temple dispatchers are currently undergoing training to familiarize themselves with the features and design of the app, focusing on the analysis of Rave’s alerts and coordination with local police enforcement.
“It’s a really simple setup, there’s no there’s no magic to this,” said Joseph Spera, deputy police chief and director of operations at Drexel University.
Drexel University began using Rave Guardian during the 2016-17 academic year, with more than 30,000 Drexel students currently using the app, said Eileen Behr, chief of police and vice president of public safety at Drexel.
“It’s reassuring to know that there’s another way you can protect yourself besides those blue emergency button or just dialing 911,” said Shreyaa Raja, a junior biomedical engineering major at Drexel.
Halle Howard, a junior history major, feels like Temple is moving in the right direction to increase campus safety services.
“With the amount of crime that we get in the area, unfortunately, it would be very useful for us to have something like that,” Howard said. “So I’m glad that they’re trying to take steps to make sure that we’re safe on campus and outside of campus, too.”