Editor’s Desk – Solution to Campus Assault Fears

By Melanie Perez

Sexual assault, or at least the fear of it, is an unfortunate reality that comes with life. We’ve all seen the news (most recently with Brock Turner) and we’ve all heard horror stories from friends, family and acquaintances.

FDU is part of the “Shatter the Silence” campaign – offering free counseling from SCAPS, as well as phone numbers and other tools to help students work through their horrifying experience. SCAPS offers free counseling to all FDU students, not just sexual assault victims.

But is it enough?

The university offers a free New York Times all digital access subscription – which is arguably a necessary aspect of becoming an informed individual.

So why don’t they offer students a free subscription to safety apps, such as SafeTrek?  It’s only $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year per person.

Statistics on the SafeTrek website report that the average cost of 45g (1.5oz) of pepper spray is $28, which is arguably less value per dollar than a subscription to the app.

“We’ve had users over the last couple of years mention owning pepper spray of all sizes,” said Aaron Kunneman from SafeTrek. “To reach our average price, we searched 10 brands of similar quality and size and pulled an average price.”

The company recently launched it’s app in both the Android and Apple app stores after its beta testing phase.  The app is easy to use, and while most users may not need the police every time they feel unsafe, it offers a faster alternative to dialing 911 in an emergency.

“SafeTrek is a mobile personal safety app that bridges the gap between doing nothing and calling 911 in an unsafe situation,” their website describes. “SafeTrek allows you to proactively protect yourself without the heavy commitment of calling 911.”

When a user feels unsafe, all they have to do is open the app and keep their thumb on the safe button.  If the person removes his/her finger from the safe button, then they are prompted to enter their four-digit code (which they create upon downloading the app).  If the code is not properly entered within 10 seconds, SafeTrek’s safety advisors will reach out through text and a phone call.

“If they’re unable to verify your safety they will notify your local police department providing them with your full name, phone number and current location,” said Kunnemann. “In addition, our safety advisers will provide them real-time location updates and continue to assist you until help arrives.”

Interestingly enough, SafeTrek was developed by college students at the University of Missouri, specifically for other college students, according to their website.  A group of students decided to develop this app after constantly hearing about crime reports and traumatic campus incidents from their friends.

“We decided to tackle the problem that the campus blue light system was failing to solve,” said SafeTrek creator Zach Winkler on their website.

The stats listed on their website report that in the past 30 days, there have been 18,436 active button uses, 659 emergency responses, and 11,132 miles trekked safely.

The reviews in the Apple app store are overwhelmingly positive – with a four out of five star average rating.

One user, Marie Connelly, said that she’s a college student who can’t afford to have a credit card.  She said that when she found out about the monthly fee, she was disheartened because she does feel unsafe sometimes.

“When I opened it I saw that you need a subscription and I couldn’t buy one through the App Store since they don’t accept PayPal as a paying option,” Connelly said. “I voiced this to an administrator at SafeTrek, he said he looked into other options.”

“Today I got a text message saying that SafeTrek had purchased me a year-long subscription,” she said. “He said that no one should be unsafe even if they can’t afford the small monthly fee for SafeTrek.

“I’ll never feel unsafe again and I hope that one day I’ll be able to help and brighten people’s days as much as Safetrek does,” said Connelly.

A downside to SafeTrek, especially with iPhones, is when a person hits the top button to lock their screen.

“What we’ve done is make it so SafeTrek does not start your 10-second timer if that happens, the same will happen if you receive a call, you’ll return to a button inside the app and not a countdown,” said Kunnemann. “Apple does not allow us to reach back out to and help explain this to users, unfortunately.”

SafeTrek works anywhere in the US and is available on both iOS and Android.  Their website says that they’re working on making SafeTrek available globally.  For more information, visit http://www.safetrekapp.com.