Smartphones provide technology for safety

The abduction of a Grand Rapids student that took place Wednesday night has startled some Central Michigan University students to be aware of the crime and violence that can occur even in a small town.

"People think that just because we live in a nice place, bad things can't happen. That's not the case," Sexual Aggression Peer Advocate Services Director Steven Thompson said. "It was a shock for everyone, and now people feel rattled, which is unsettling and puts us in a vulnerable position."

Since technology is constantly advancing, there are new alternatives for safety and protection provided through smartphone applications.

Some of the most popular smart phone applications that students have seen are Circle of 6 and bSafe.

Harrison Township sophomore Alexandra Cusmano said she was very disturbed by what happened on campus and has looked for new ways to keep herself safe.

"I think the Circle of 6 app is the most beneficial for women to have," she said. "I think it's important to be able to have campus security and national hotline numbers pre-programmed in the app, and you can also have your own six people that you can notify at the touch of a button."

The Circle of 6 application allows a potential victim to send out a text alert to six people of choice with two simple taps of the phone. The convenience and protection that this application can provide to people in danger made it the winner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "Apps Against Abuse" contest.

The bSafe application provides multiple features that send messages to contacts in emergency situations, and it also provides an option for a fake incoming call.

Freshman Abigail Paul said she likes it because it gives a quick and easy way to alert the police.

"I think calling the police first is the best thing to do. The faster the police are notified, the faster you can get yourself out of the situation," the West Bloomfield native said.

Smartphone applications are not a foolproof way form of protection in all dangerous situations, Thompson said.

"There is no clear answer of what is best to do. My advice to a victim is to do what is comfortable. Men are aware of vulnerability, and evaluating where you are and looking at the risks is important," Thompson said.

As a criminal justice major, Cusmano said that being protected on campus involves always making sure women are with another person or a group of people when out in public.

"Also, knowing or learning defense mechanisms is important in staying safe," Cusmano said. "Some of those apps could be potentially dangerous to the victim because they might not always have an option to be fidgeting with their phone, and that could put them in even more danger than they are already in."

Paul said she thinks another way to keep safe is by carrying mace when walking alone at night.

"If women aren't aware of their alternatives in situations like these they may not be able to save themselves. It can also open a gate for tragedies such as these to occur again," she said. 

The Women's Aid Services of Isabella County offers support and counseling for students interested in getting assistance with domestic violence or sexual assault services.

"Mount Pleasant is not immune to violence, but the police know the community and are doing the best they can," Thompson said.


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