By Quincey Taylor
When I came to BYU, it was the first time that I found myself walking home alone in the dark. I had always had a car when I lived with my parents, so to be all by myself in a new environment was somewhat intimidating, especially as an 18 year old girl. I had an evening class and had to walk across campus every night to my apartment in Helaman Halls. Nothing scary or dangerous ever happened to me, but it would have made a huge difference to feel safe as I was walking to and from class at night.
BYU is one of the safest college campuses in the nation. According to Business Insider, an American business news website, BYU was ranked the number one safest college campus in the nation of 2016.* While number of assaults on BYU campus is low compared to other universities, unfortunate things still happen. It is sometimes difficult for victims to feel there is help in those vulnerable moments.
To address this concern of many BYU students, a team of students on the BYUSA Student Council set out to develop and launch a mobile service to help students feel safer. In the past, students were able to call a Safewalk hotline and be physically escorted home by a police officer. However, it is impossible for officers to walk all 33,000 students home. This feature was created as a “virtual escort” so that each student that wanted to take advantage of this service is able to. Launched during the 2017 fall semester, this app allows the BYU Police Department to monitor your location to ensure you reach your destination safely. It was even featured on Campus Security and Life Safety, a magazine focusing on efforts schools are making to become safer.
Follow these steps to try it out today:
SafeWalk is a new feature on the BYU mobile app. To find it, click “Add Features” and select it from the list. You will need to click “Launch.” I tried it out on a stroll across campus and it was easy to use. It is important to read all the instructions in order to get the best use from the app. You will be asked to confirm your phone number to ensure they have the correct one.
Next, you specify your destination by clicking on the map and setting a pin. Click “Confirm Destination” and your location will begin to be monitored by the BYU Police. You will receive a confirmation text to ensure that it is working.
As you walk, your screen will show a red circle that, if clicked, will call the BYU Police immediately. Please do NOT close the app without ending your Safewalk session or the police will dispatch someone to check on you. Once you have reached your destination, click “I’ve Arrived Safely” to end the Safewalk. You will receive a text stating that your location is no longer being tracked.
Lt. Steven Messick with the BYU Police Department says about the new feature, “I think we live in a time where the need may be just the fact that we’re able to do it, and maybe there’s been a need for a long, long time, for this type of thing. We can do it now, we know how to do it and so why shouldn’t we use that to make BYU a safer place?” So, if you are ever uneasy or even just curious, try it out! You can never be too careful, even on a campus like BYU.
*See link for Business Insider article: https://www.businessinsider.com/safest-college-campuses-in-america-2016-1