In the few months since it went live, the University of Central Arkansas Police Department’s new application, Safe@UCA, has seen 1,027 downloads.
The new mobile safety app was announced Oct. 24 after years of trying.
Public Information Officer Michael Hopper said this is something they have been wanting to do for several years but struggled to find the right vendor to host it until coming across a company called AppArmor.
He said the main issue came down to the inability to do everything they wanted to but AppArmor said it could make the app whatever UCAPD wanted it to be.
“The technology, the software, the programming, finally got to a point where we felt like it was a good time to go ahead and push forward with this,” Hopper said.
It wasn’t long after working out the basic layout and content that he said AppArmor was ready.
“Within a matter [of] a couple weeks, they had us a prototype that we sort of tested and it worked really well,” Hopper said. “It’s exactly what we were looking for.”
He said when it came to the content, a committee was created to talk about what was important and why it needed to be included in the app.
“We just went down the list and decided where we wanted to house all of that information within these nine buttons,” Hopper said.
The main screen of the app has the UCAPD Twitter feed scrolling in real time at the top and has nine main buttons that users can click on: emergency contacts which include 911, UCAPD, the Conway Police Department and more, that a user can push and it directly connects them; report a tip hotline for anonymous reporting, emergency plans, maps of the campus and live shuttle routes, the UCA Alert system, a safety toolbox with flashlight and the ability to let others know the user is alright with, “I’m OK!” and more.
“I’ve said that before, that it really is a good, one-stop shop for just about any information you need to know as far as public safety goes,” Hopper said.
He said another useful aspect that AppArmor gives them is the ability to update.
“If we want to take this UCA Alert Button and move it somewhere else, we can do that,” Hopper said. “If we want to take one of these buttons out, just temporarily, and put in one for say, move-in day, we can do that. It’s really user friendly both on the consumer end as well as the administrative end of it.”
Downloaders are not limited to just the UCA community either.
“The app is not just for faculty, staff, students and people who are affiliated with the university,” he said. “This is for anybody who would want to download this.”
Hopper said whether it’s groups visiting for the varying summer camps the school hosts, seniors on Bear Facts Day or residents who live in surrounding neighborhoods, the app works for everyone to keep them updated on what’s going on in case of emergency and other beneficial needs including the live shuttle stream.
“Lot of good information on here,” he said. “It really is.”
A unique feature the app holds is in its Friend Walk, a section that allows a user to send out an alert asking them if they want someone to follow them. For example, a user can send out the option for their friend to track them across campus at 1 a.m.
“We felt like it was important to give the students a choice rather than say, ‘contact one of our dispatchers,’ you can contact a friend, somebody that you know personally, to do that,” Hopper said. “It puts a little bit of choice in the students hands right there and it negates the big brother aspect of [an] authority figure watching over that person.”
He said he is impressed with the app’s functions.
"There’s a lot of stuff in there; it can be overwhelming. It’s something, again, we can, as time goes on, reevaluate and say, ‘this is what we started out with, is there anything we need to take out?’” Hopper said. “We can start trimming down or replacing information in there if we find something that fits better than something else, we can push that.”
While they have introduced the app across campus, sent out emails to all UCA accounts, set up fun informational booths in the student center to attract students and update social media constantly with the announcement about Safe@UCA, the university also plans to push it out in other ways, including PSAs (public service announcements) at games in the future.
Hopper said while they are working on future ways to get feedback about it, so far, the app has gone great and they haven’t looked at any changes thus far.