Student-driven safety app debuts at USA; LiveSafe targets residential students in pilot program


Posted on January 26, 2015 by Jeb Schrenk
Jeb Schrenk


A new mobile technology application has been launched for the University of South Alabama that seamlessly connects students to USA police and allows people to text tips using photos and video.

Designed to prevent crime and enable better incident response, the LiveSafe technology includes an app for smartphone users that is connected to a cloud-based dashboard monitored by campus safety officials. The core features include quick tip submittal via text with picture and video attachments (including the option to stay anonymous), live chat with safety officials, fast access to emergency phone numbers that initiate location tracking when called, and a peer-to-peer tool called SafeWalk that allows friends to watch out for each other through location monitoring and group chat. Additionally, app users can receive important broadcast notifications sent by University police.

The app is free to download on iPhone and Android devices and is being targeted in a pilot program to about 2,000 students who live on campus in University housing and in The Grove. If successful, the program will be actively expanded as early as this summer.

The program was initiated by the Student Government Association, who along with the Office of Student Affairs is funding the initial roll-out.

“LiveSafe empowers students and allows them to take communication with USAPD into their own hands,” said SGA Senator Ravi Rajendra. “The LiveSafe app has a streamlined, simple design that makes it easy to use. The majority of us feel awkward without our cell phones on our person. LiveSafe is a safer campus at one's fingertips.” 

Rajendra said he along with fellow SGA Senator Marcus Williams first researched the possibility of having blue-light emergency phones installed on campus, but quickly found that technology was outdated and underused at other universities. A free app that allows for text, photo and video reporting, he said, will be more popular among students.

“We think USA students will especially appreciate the SafeWalk feature,” he said. “If you hit the SafeWalk button, you can select a friend to ‘walk you home.’ This friend accepts your invite and can see a live GPS feed showing your location on a map.”

USA Police Chief Zeke Aull said LiveSafe is another tool that can strengthen the connection between his officers and members of the University community. It may be an attractive option for people who want to report a tip but do not want to call police.

“Our support for LiveSafe reflects our commitment to campus safety and our ‘If you see something, say something’ awareness campaign,” Aull said. “We want to give people multiple ways to connect with us, even anonymously, because a closer and connected campus is a safer campus.”

Promotional posters and flyers are being distributed this week in USA residence halls and at The Grove. While residential students will be the focus during the test period, any member of the USA community can download the app for on-campus reporting.

Students who download the app and have a registered, active account by Jan. 31, 2015, will be entered automatically for a chance to win an iPad Mini.

LiveSafe is used at schools in 19 states, according to the company. The University of South Alabama is the first university in the state to use the app. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is LiveSafe?

LiveSafe is a free mobile app made available by the University of South Alabama. Designed to prevent crime and enable better incident response, the LiveSafe technology includes an app for smartphone users that is connected to a cloud-based dashboard. This dashboard is monitored by officials within the University Police Department.

What are the main features of LiveSafe?

The core features include quick tip submittal via text with picture and video attachments (including the option to stay anonymous), live chat with safety officials, fast access to emergency phone numbers that initiate location tracking when called, and a peer-to-peer tool called SafeWalk that allows friends to watch out for each other through location monitoring and group chat. Additionally, app users can receive important broadcast notifications specific to their campus.

Why would someone use this app in an emergency?

So long as users have the capacity to make voice calls, we encourage anyone in an emergency to always call 9-1-1. If, however, a user is unable to make a direct call due to situational or technical issues, or if they must be discrete, then LiveSafe reporting becomes advantageous. Additionally, when the Emergency button is used to dial 9-1-1, dial campus police, or message campus police, location services are enabled to help emergency personnel find your location.

If I download LiveSafe, can law enforcement see my location whenever they want?

No. Your location is only sent to USA police when you submit a tip (anonymous or not) or use one of the features within the Emergency button (Call 911, Call Campus Police, or Message Campus Police).  When you submit a tip, your current location is only submitted once and is attached to that tip – tracking is not enabled. However, when you use the Emergency button, your location is tracked until you stop location tracking within the Emergency button screen.

Why do I need to fill out a user profile after downloading LiveSafe?

Filling out the user profile will help law enforcement contact you if additional information is needed after you submit a tip. If you use the Emergency button, they will have immediate access to your name and contact information. This is imperative in emergency situations if you lose connection with law enforcement or if your identity is needed because you are in distress.

Is the anonymous feature really anonymous if I have filled out my user profile or if I use the chat feature?

Yes, it is. If you check the “Send Anonymously” box when submitting a tip, your user information will show up as “Anonymous” in all of the fields. Even if USA police use the Live Chat feature to obtain additional information, you will still appear as anonymous.

What happens when I click “Call 911” from the Emergency button?

When you click on the “Call 911” button from the Emergency screen, a confirmation bubble will appear with “call” or “cancel” options. This will help ensure that users do not accidentally call 911 if it is not an emergency.

When I first download LiveSafe, why is the app asking to access my contacts?

The app will ask to access your contacts so you can easily add friends and family members to your LiveSafe contact list. This list is used for SafeWalk.

Do I need to enable location services for LiveSafe for it to work?

Yes. In order for the location-dependent features to work – like SafeWalk, tip submittal, and location tracking during emergency calls and messages – LiveSafe needs to be able to access your location. You will not be actively tracked when the app is not in use and when you are using non-location-dependent features.

What if a tip I submit to USA police turns out to be a mistake?

Users will not be penalized for making claims that turn out to be untrue. So long as reports aren’t purposefully and falsely claimed, people are encouraged to share information with the police.


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