Two USD sororities are utilizing a safety smartphone application to protect its members as a precaution against dangerous situations when walking home late at night.
which is available free to all USD students, is an app that summons emergency responders to users who find themselves in need of assistance.
Bridget Wilds, a member of Alpha Phi, originally contacted the company and formed an agreement for USD students to receive the app for free.
Wilds said having the app is “reassuring.”
“I think it’s nice to have that extra layer (of safety),” she said.
Fellow Alpha Phi member Nicole Griffith shared Wilds’ feelings. She said she believes some areas of Vermillion are insufficiently lit at night.
“I think it’s a great app” Griffith said.
The company normally charges SafeTrek users $2.99 per month, but is offering the app for free to college students in order to “proactively make school safer,” SafeTrek co-founder Robert Roderick said.
Originally developed by University of Missouri students about two years ago, SafeTrek now has three 24-hour call centers and about 500,000 users nationwide, Roderick said.
The app uses GPS locating technology to track the user’s exact location. If necessary, trained operators decide whether to send the information to police, paramedics or a fire department.
Users of the app hold down a button while they are in transit. An operator is alerted if the button is released, who then determines whether or not to call for additional emergency assistance.
“We’ve had cases where people can’t talk on the phone,” Roderick said.
In one specific instance, a person was hiding in a closet and therefore unable to make a call, he said.
In some areas where the app has received a significant number of emergency notifications, the company will inform local law enforcement, who may then decide to increase patrols in the problem area.
Roderick said the company has not yet established such a relationship with law enforcement in Vermillion.
About 65 to 70 percent of SafeTrek users are college students, with the remaining bulk largely consisting of “nurses, doctors, bank employees, pharmacists, realtors and people in high-risk areas,” Roderick said.
During its existence, SafeTrek has responded to about 7 million incidents, 95 percent of which turned out to be non-emergencies.
The number of unneeded emergency responses isn’t a concern, Roderick said, because the company would rather see a false alarm than a person not receiving help in a real emergency.
Elizabeth Landy, Alpha Xi Delta president, said sorority members began regular use of the app this month, and it is not mandatory.
“We definitely encourage everyone to download it,” she said.
No one in Alpha Xi Delta has had to utilize the emergency response function of the app yet, but Landy said women have been more cautious lately out of concern for their personal safety.
“I definitely feel there’s been more of a push to stay in groups,” Landy said.
Sarah Barthel, president of Alpha Phi, said safety for members of the sorority became a concern after they heard rumors of cars being keyed or broken into in the area.
“As a sorority, we’re always concerned about the safety of our members,” Barthel said. “You never know when something bad’s going to happen in the community until it does.”
(Photo illustration by Mason Dockter / The Volante)