Originally published by the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney
UNMPD and the UNM Office of Emergency Management have taken advantage of the smartphone craze by utilizing apps, messaging availability and social media — allowing the University community to provide tools for reporting “suspicious or criminal activity.”
In the spring of 2015, LoboGuardian, a new technology-driven app that turns a smartphone into a portable “virtual blue light,” was launched at UNM.
The app is run by the vendor Rave Guardian and is designed to increase the safety of students, staff and faculty on college and university campuses.
Since it’s launch on UNM’s campus, the app has been downloaded more than 1,200 times, and during fall 2016, three unique tips were sent in using the app. Eight tips were sent this spring.
University Emergency Manager Byron Piatt said the goal of the app is to provide students, staff and faculty with another tool to “strengthen their safety and emergency preparedness capabilities.”
The app reduces crime in the community by “allowing the UNM Community to provide tips to police, right from their phone,” said Robert Burford, Clery Act Compliance Officer for UNM.
After the app, which operates on both IOS and Android platforms, is downloaded, the user can submit tips, live stream video to the UNM Police Department and designate a “guardian” who will be alerted if the user does not arrive at a location by a predetermined time.
“It has given students, faculty and staff an additional tool for reporting suspicious or criminal activity,” Piatt said.
When a user opens LoboGuardian, they are asked to allow the app to use their location when it is not in use. If the user accepts, UNMPD can access the location of the user if it is suspected that they may be in danger.
UNMPD Chief Kevin McCabe said the idea behind a guardian is if someone suspects that the user who designated them as a guardian is in danger, the guardian would contact UNMPD, and they would use the app to locate the user.
“We would have some information on there for (the user), and then we’d also have where you’re at with your cell phone and we would start responding to see if everything is okay,” McCabe said, calling LoboGuardian a “great extra layer of protection.”
LoboGuardian has helped UNMPD to recover at least two bikes through tips that were sent in using the app, said Piatt.
The app allows UNMPD to stay in contact with the “tipster” if they are willing to further assist in an investigation, said Timothy Stump, UNMPD Lieutenant, and the utilization of new technologies also helps in the spread of emergency information.
Benefits of the app include “getting tips from the community and being able to alert the community to incidents on campus via text messages, emails and the UNM webpage,” Burford said.
LoboAlerts, UNM’s emergency messaging service, is a system that sends an email to all unm.edu addresses when the campus community needs to be alerted of an emergency situation.
UNM students, staff and faculty can also sign up to receive LoboAlerts via SMS messaging, allowing for “real time” delivery of information.
The biggest help apps and social media have been to University safety services is providing them with information in a timely manner.
“Some posts on social media are reported to us as suspicious, and we investigate these situations to determine their validity,” Stump said. “It has helped us locate people we may be looking for. When you have the ability to send anonymous ‘real time’ tips it makes it easier for someone to contact the police.”
“This assists in crime reduction by merely giving us the information to act upon,” Stump said. “Social media has given UNMPD another platform to disseminate information to the campus community regarding emergencies or Clery required notices.”