The new awareness of on-campus crime started the development of databases that gauge the safety at colleges and universities. Schools also keep students informed with crime alerts so they can proceed with their business with improved awareness.
However, while the databases and crime alerts have their place, they act only as data. Campus security may develop measures to ensure safety but students may still feel unsettled as they walk between the library and dorm or downtown on a Saturday night. Five students from the University of Michigan confronted this issue using technology. The result of their efforts was the Companion app.
How Companion Works
Companion works by allowing your friends or family members to monitor you as you travel alone. It is available for both Android and iOS systems and once downloaded, it uses GPS, mapping, and messaging functions to keep chosen contacts informed while you are on your route. You choose who receives the information and you contacts do not need the app to be there for you.
To use the app, you first designate people from your contacts list to act as “companions.” These individuals will receive a text with a link to a map that shows your location, using your phone’s GPS function. Any contacts who are available will acknowledge your message and you can proceed knowing they are aware of your intentions. When you arrive at your destination, the app alerts your safe arrive to your friend or family member.
If circumstances become questionable while you are traveling, there are options for getting help. On the user end, there is a button for a quick call to the police. You can also indicate “I feel nervous” which puts your companion on alert. If while on route you start running, drop your phone or have your headphones ripped off, your contacts receive an alert and you have 15 seconds to hit an “I’m OK” button. If you do not hit that button, the app will make loud alarm sounds and your contacts can call the police right away as well. This series of events intends to chase away assailants or at least get law enforcement to your location as soon as possible.
Assurance Of Safety
The overall consensus about Companion is users feel safer. It is likely that this safety is not an illusion, but actually real. Specific reasons for this may include:
- Communication: The app encourages users to report to someone when they leave a location and when they arrive at a destination.
- Response time: If users do not arrive at their destination at the expected time or something occurs, contacts are alerted immediately. There is no waiting until the next morning or later to notice someone is missing. An immediate response can delay or prevent a crime—or at least get victims out of harm’s way sooner.
- Confidence: Criminals do not pick their victims randomly. Since users will appear less frightened and proceed in areas with more confidence, they are less likely to be victims due to their appearance of not being an easy mark.
University of Michigan students already indicated an interest in using this app. But interest is not limited to them. Families want to invest in it to protect children and elderly relatives. The possibilities of promoting safety and reassurance appear endless.
Companion’s creators look to collaborate with campus security to add Companion systems in colleges and work with police to monitor area crime. These efforts are expected to have some crime prevention value. One week after releasing the second version of the app, 500 incidents of feeling unsafe were reported by users offering data to police departments and campus security.
At this time, it is too early to know how Companion will affect the crime rate. The obvious assumption is that data may lead to more police patrols and at least crime interruption, if not prevention. It will take time to see how that works out. For now, it is a tool that helps individuals stay in contact with others and feel safer as they move between destinations.
DeLuca, Ricciuti & Konieczka is a criminal defense firm consisting of former prosecutors. We have seen both sides of cases and use our firsthand knowledge to provide you the best defense possible when you face charges. Contact us today for representation in your criminal matter.