The University of Miami Police Department (UMPD) has implemented a variety of services on and around campus to increase safety. Some of these include safety escorts and blue light phones. Now, UMPD’s new app UGuardian will join the list.
UGuardian was launched during UMPD’s 45th anniversary party on Wednesday. The app has features that facilitate a person’s contact with UM’s police department, such as calling with the click of one button or activating a GPS service that allows officers to know where the call is being made from.
“We are moving into a new age of technology and our cellphones are always present,” Crime Prevention Officer John Gulla said. “We are offering a tool that is available to everyone at all times, as almost everyone has smartphones nowadays.”
According to Gulla, the UM police department prides itself in looking at new trends, and the creation of UGuardian will make the community’s relationship with the department easier.
The idea to create the app came from students who recognized that other universities were using this kind of technology, prompting UMPD to put forward the UGuardian initiative.
“UGuardian is a community tool that people would use to speak to us and provide us with more information right away,” Gulla said. “There is an optional feature to input information about the caller, such as pictures, allergies, medical information and even give access to someone’s call history.”
According to Gulla, however, the main aspect of the app is the GPS information it can provide to the police department.
The app’s “guardian” feature, for instance, allows a person to notify a particular “guardian,” such as a roommate, about their intended path and time of arrival from one location to another.
In case the user does not make it to the location in the given time, the “guardian” is immediately notified and can use the GPS locator to take appropriate measures.
This particular feature will allow students like sophomore Victoria Andrea Portillo to feel safer when walking through campus at night.
“Campus is kind of dark, so I feel unsafe when it’s late and I’m walking back to Eaton, where I live,” Portillo said. “An app like this would make me feel more safe because it would let people know where I’m going or that I’m on my way and, if I don’t show up, they’ll know they need to worry and alert the authorities if need be.”
However, Gulla emphasized that the app will merely act as an addition to existing safety efforts and not as a replacement.
Despite rumors that the blue light phones would be removed for lack of usage, Gulla affirmed that they will remain in use.
“We all in the department considered what to do with the blue phones,” Gulla said. “While we think that those will not be as often used as the app or actually calling the police, we decided we still need to see the blue lights on campus. If anyone does not have cellphone or smartphone on them they would still have that option, so we are definitely keeping the blue light phones.”
For students like sophomore Haiyi Lin, this is good news. While having the app can be more convenient, traditional safety measures like the blue light phones and safety escorts are still in students’ minds.
“I usually call someone when I walk alone at night the parking lot because I feel unsafe walking from the library to the Yellow Zone, where I park,” Lin said. “The app sounds cool because it has a lot of features, and I would definitely give it a try, but I still feel that calling an escort would make me feel safer.”
UMPD’s 45th anniversary celebration also featured the unveiling of new UMPD vehicles. Additionally, the celebration coincides with UMPD’s all-time low crime rate record.
Featured image courtesy Bradley Gordon via Flickr