SafeWalks app is relevant, worthwhile measure for student safety

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

The University Police Department is launching a SafeWalks application — an idea that carries great value and relevance in a world where students are constantly on their cellphones.

Recently, one missing student was found dead, and another graduate student went missing from campus. On Feb. 13, aggravated assault and possible robbery were reported near Fifth and Daniel streets when a student was walking around midnight.

Events like these not only make us concerned about students’ safety, but they instill a sense of worry and fear across the campus community at large.

Fortunately, we do have several services available to students to help promote safety, but there is always room for updates and improvement. Everyone should feel safe walking on campus, and no one should hesitate before asking the police for the service. Currently, to request SafeWalks, students must call the number provided by the University Police Department.

The SafeWalks service is valuable to students now, because it gives them a way to walk home in a group, rather than alone, where they are more vulnerable. In the Daily Illini story published today, Ryan Johnson, University security coordinator, said that when students walk in pairs or with a group at night, their chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime are greatly reduced.

If students are intoxicated and feel uncomfortable calling the police department, they will soon be able to use the new application, and initially not have to speak with anyone to ask for help. All they will have to do is press a button to request SafeWalks. The police will be able to see their location, and then call the student to confirm their request and location.

The application can also help international students, who may hesitate to call SafeWalks at first, because they are not comfortable speaking English. And with such a large international student population, this factor is vital.

No one should have to worry about their safety, even if they are drinking underage. We’re glad the police are putting students’ safety first, and finding a practical way for students to ask for help.

We like that the police department is being proactive in thinking of ways to connect with students. Some of the safety methods, like the emergency phones, seem a little outdated. They also serve as a way to call for help once something bad has already happened and it may be too late. The SafeWalks application is a great preventative measure.

Many times students find themselves in a situation where they must walk at night alone, whether it is going home from the bars or the library. We hope the police department and the University continues to be proactive when it comes to students’ safety, and we hope they are always thinking of new ways to connect with students and make them feel comfortable on campus.