Smartphones have tremendous pocket-sized power — sometimes they are used for finding memes and other times they can be used to save a life.
Since 2015, the University of New Mexico has promoted a service called LoboGuardian — which runs off the RaveGuardian network — to increase campus safety.
Users can send pictures and text anonymous tips to the UNM Police Department through the app.
There is also a panic button for emergencies. The panic button will quickly send a distress signal to UNMPD and turn your smartphone into a tracking beacon, allowing law enforcement to respond accordingly.
LoboGuardian also features a timer system. Users will set a time duration for how long until they need to check in. This function also designates a contact from the user’s phone to be a guardian contact. Guardians are able to check a user’s status and location. If a user does not check in at the end of the timer then the app will automatically alert UNMPD and the guardian.
Android and Apple users can find the app by searching RaveGuardian in their respective application stores. Students and faculty must then enter their UNM Network ID to register. The app is free to download.
Byron Piatt, the University emergency manager, said this app can be great for safety, from students getting out of class late at night to being safe on a blind date.
“We’ve got the Blue Light phones, we’ve got officers patrolling, but in the event of an emergency, instead of having to stop and think about where your nearest resource is your smartphone can do that for you,” Piatt said.
Piatt said he hopes the campus safety social media campaign through UNMPD will improve LoboGuardian’s participation.
As of spring of 2018, there are almost 24,000 students enrolled on campus, according to the Spring 2018 Official Enrollment Report. Five percent of University affiliates — 1,312 users — downloaded the app, according to data from UNM’s Emergency Management department.
UNMPD Officer Patricia Young is helping spearhead the social media campaign. She said participation with LoboGuardian will help improve community policing.
“We have all these resources on campus — we all need to know about them so we can use them in every different way,” Young said.
Programs like LoboGuardian are not new to the university scene. Universities and colleges like the University of Iowa, Augusta University, Clemson University and others use the RaveGuardian network to implement their own app safety measures.
Implementing LoboGuardian is not a one department job.
According to the LoboGuardian page on the UNM website, five University branches are overseeing it: the Office of the President, the Dean of Students, Campus Safety, UNMPD and Information Technologies.
Nasha Torrez, the dean of students, said the app’s reception has consisted of surprise and intrigue. During freshman orientation, the app makes an appearance in front of incoming students and their families to make it known as a resource.
“(LoboGuardian) is an idea to be very connected and a way to be very connected in a positive form that helps us be more safe,” Torrez said.
Torrez said she hopes students will not be hyper-vigilant and scared with this app in mind.
“This is your campus and this is your home, and this app enforces that because it allows you to have more connections and a little more ownership of this space,” she said.
Michaela Eckstein, a sophomore majoring in German and nutrition, downloaded LoboGuardian. She said she likes the app, especially the timer feature.
“I thought it was really cool to see where they started and where they end up just because I feel like if something were to happen, it’s good to know where the person is so that you have more of an idea of how to help them,” Eckstein said.
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.