Washington University in St. Louis is providing all students, faculty, staff and basic service contractor employees free activation for the personal safety app SafeTrek. Essentially a mobile “blue light,” SafeTrek provides peace of mind and protection in potentially unsafe locations, such as parking garages or dark streets.
Students already have received a university email detailing how to register for SafeTrek; staff and faculty will receive instructions this week.
“The SafeTrek app provides an additional layer of protection for our entire community, whether you are a student returning to the South 40 after a late night at the library or an employee walking to your car,” said Dedric A. Carter, vice chancellor for operations and technology management.
To use the app, open SafeTrek on your mobile device and hold the large blue “Release when safe” button. Once you reach your destination and/or feel safe, release the button and enter your four-digit PIN.
If you don’t enter your PIN — either because you forgot or are, in fact, in danger — SafeTrek will send a text to verify you are safe. At this point you have another opportunity to enter your PIN and cancel the alert. If you do not enter your PIN in response to the text, a call is placed to your mobile device from a dedicated SafeTrek call center. If you do not answer the call or reply to the text, the center will dispatch local law enforcement personnel to your location using the GPS coordinates on your mobile device.
SafeTrek co-founder Nick Droege said SafeTrek offers two advantages over the standard 911 process. SafeTrek can inform police of a user’s exact GPS coordinates within 5 meters and send help immediately. Also, the user can get help without actually having to speak to a 911 operator.
“By simply lifting your thumb off your screen, you’re able to alert police,” Droege said. “That’s important because, in the case of an emergency, you can’t always communicate with a dispatcher.”
To get more details on how the app works, visit the SafeTrek website.
While thousands of college students nationwide use the SafeTrek app, Washington University is the first higher education institution to make the service available to its entire community and at no cost.
Washington University Police Chief Mark Glenn said SafeTrek is a complement to University Police and 911, not a replacement. If, for instance, you need an ambulance or want to report a theft, call 314-935-5555 on campus or 911 off campus.
“SafeTrek is a wonderful tool in situations where you may feel uneasy but don’t necessarily have a crime to report,” Glenn said. “We still encourage our community to call us directly if they can safely do so.”
How much does it cost?
Washington University is providing a free subscription to all students, faculty, staff and basic services contract employees.
Does SafeTrek only provide protection on campus?
No. SafeTrek goes where you go, anywhere in the continental U.S., whether that’s the Danforth University Center or the District of Columbia.
How does it work?
Open the app and hold the blue “Release when safe button.” Once you reach your destination, you have 10 seconds to punch in your four-digit PIN. If you are in danger, do not enter your PIN. A SafeTrek dispatcher will first text, then call, your mobile device to check on your safety. You can then report your emergency to the dispatcher. If you do not or cannot respond to the call, law enforcement will be sent to your location immediately.
How will the police know where I am?
The SafeTrek call center will provide the police the GPS coordinates of your mobile device.
I accidentally forgot to enter my PIN. Now what?
If you remove your thumb, by accident or otherwise, SafeTrek will send a text to check on your status. Simply enter your PIN to cancel the call.
Someone stole my bike from the South 40. Should I use SafeTrek?
You could, but SafeTrek is designed to provide peace of mind and protection to users on their commutes. To report a crime on campus, call Washington University Police at 314-935-5555.
I can’t get the app to work. Whom do I contact?
Contact SafeTrek directly by email at Nick_droege@safetrekapp.com.