University of Texas police, business contracts looking into new emergency app

Meghan Nguyen

Like many students, biology senior Faith Simon has had her fair share of late nights walking across campus alone. 

“My freshman year, I lived in Kinsolving while all of my friends lived in Jester,” Simon said. “There were very many late nights in which I had to practically run across campus to get to my dorm and often times I would be very uncomfortable and nervous.” 

After UTSA adopted a new safety app meant to mitigate risk in situations like hers, Simon tweeted, “(UT) should get on this ASAP.” 

The app, called LiveSafe Solution, allows everyone to be alerted about important safety issues and risky situations through messages broadcast to the entire University or to precise groups, such as Greek organizations.

LiveSafe Solution also offers peer-to-peer and self-service tools for safety. This includes a feature called SafeWalk, which allows employees or students to invite virtual companions to accompany them to their destination using GPS, and a 911 button that would notify local call centers, regardless of whether a student is on campus or studying abroad. If the student is abroad, the app will call the country’s local call center. 

After two months of consideration, the University of Texas Police Department is making preparations to adopt the new application. 

“After seeing it at a police chief’s conference, we saw some real value in that particular app,” UTPD Chief David Carter said. “We can actually piggyback off of, or join UTSA’s contract, without having to file a Request for Proposal for a Contract Bid.”

The app will cost UTPD roughly $40,000 and will be free for UT employees and students. Similar apps have launched on a smaller scale in the past, such as Campus Watch, which allows students to send in crime tips.

At UTSA, more than 650 users are currently using the app. 

“We have had several suspicious activity and tobacco use violation tips submitted through LiveSafe,” said Annette Parker, executive director of Strategic Initiatives at the UTSA Department of Public Safety. “The SafeWalk feature has been used in excess of 130 times.”

Carter said he recognized that the tragic death of Harrison Brown in 2017, and the recent knife incident involving three homeless individuals outside of Scottish Rite Dormitory, have caused concern within the UT community and warranted a need for more effective communication. 

“There’s sort of a gap between the text notifications and social media notifications, because not everyone follows us on social media,” Carter said. “We’ll be able to put notifications out to those who have the app on their phone.”

Simon said being able to use LiveSafe would make her and other students feel more at ease. 

“We have a large, very open campus in the middle of a major city that gets a lot of untraceable and unrecorded foot and vehicular traffic,” Simon said. “As we saw with the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser, not everyone who can access our campus is here for the right reasons. This app could potentially provide an added layer of safety that could prevent another tragedy from happening on our campus.”