From left: U. of I. student patrol officer Taylor Franzen, Security Coordinator Ryan Johnson and U. of I. student patrol officer Michael Hao display the new SafeWalks app, which is to be released within the next few weeks.
URBANA, Ill. — Getting home safely on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus is about to get easier as members of the Student Patrol program prepare to launch a SafeWalks mobile app.
Students who download the app will have a very simple way to request a SafeWalks escort from their mobile phones. The request made through the mobile app will go to the Student Patrol office, and patrollers will be dispatched to the requester’s location. It’s that easy.
“Our main objective is getting them home safe at night,” said Ryan Johnson, the security coordinator who oversees the Student Patrol Officer program.
Users will be asked to log in with their U. of I. credentials the first time they launch the app. Those credentials will be stored so the user does not have to keep providing them.
The app will automatically pin the phone’s location while the app is in use — that way, the user can request a SafeWalk even if they do not know where they are. All the requester has to do is let Student Patrol know where they’re headed and hit send. Student Patrol will confirm the SafeWalk with a quick phone call, and the escort will be on its way.
The app, which has been in development for several months, will be available on iOS and Android platforms within the next few weeks. It was developed by students who are employed by the Student Patrol program.
“My message to the folks who were developing this: It has to be a matter of convenience,” Johnson said. “It has to be simplified.”
Campus officials constantly recommend that students not walk home alone, especially at night. Criminals target individuals who are by themselves, but walking with a Student Patrol escort removes the opportunity for crime.
The SafeWalks program has seen much growth — requests grew from about 900 in 2012 to 1,400 in 2014. Program coordinators hope the new mobile app will encourage even more students to use the program.
SafeWalks is a free service provided by U. of I. students. For more information about SafeWalks, visit go.illinois.edu/SafeWalks.