UT alumni create student-centered safety app

Marina Vences

Expanding out of an apartment and into an office downtown, a group of UT alumni created Campus Watch, an app focused on improving student safety. 

The app, which was supposed to have a beta launch on Oct. 3 but was delayed, allows students to send crime tips. The tips are later compiled into a heat map of the campus for other users in real time. The students can use a help button through the app to send their coordinates to dispatch centers in order to connect with UTPD and APD. 

Paolo Soriano, a creator of Campus Watch, said he thought of the idea for the app in response to recent safety concerns. Soriano said he wants students to feel safe on campus at all times because of the app.

“Whether it’s mass shootings or rape cases, there is a sense of instability amongst the students where they don’t feel safe,” Soriano said. “They should feel safe in a place where they are getting an education, so we set out to fix a problem that no one seemed to want to fix.”  

Soriano said the goal of the app is to prevent crime before it happens.

“On the surface, our problem is safety — which means there is crime,” Soriano said. “So we want to prevent the crime, not react to it after.”

Masha Romanova, Campus Watch’s director of communications, said she wants students to actively participate in their safety by eliminating the bystander effect using the app’s tips feature.

“You’re able to submit tips whether they’re emergency or non-emergency for you or someone else,” Romanova said.“ [We want] people actually paying attention to the world around them and participate in protecting their peers.”

Management senior Alfredo del Barrio heads the app’s business development and fundraising. As a current UT student, he said his goal is to make the app available to everyone free of charge and for the app to be included in University budgets.

“Our total cost would be 1 percent of the safety budget for UT, but for that 1 percent we do much, we’re access to safety in the palm of your hand,” del Barrio said. “I never want there to be a day where a student has to pay for something that should be free.”

Radio-television-film senior Natalie Miller says she is excited at the prospect of having another way to access safety services.

“It seems like a good alternative to the police call light posts, because it doesn’t depend on your being in the right place at the right time,” Miller said. “It definitely sounds like something I would use.”

Campus Watch will officially be released in November, and the team welcomes any student feedback on what needs to be included the app before then.

“It’s student-generated,” Soriano said. “They can actively take part in their safety and not wait for someone else to stand up for them — but for them to stand up for themselves.”