Students with evening classes can now rely on personal safety-related mobile apps

Early Child Development Major, Bryana Koch, walks to her car from a class. (Daniela Sanchez/ Lariat)

Bryana Koch, an early child development major, walks to her car from a class. (Daniela Sanchez/ Lariat)

Alayna Snyder, a 19-year-old nursing major, currently leaves Saddleback College between 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. She is not afraid of walking to her car through a somewhat dark and often frightening campus during that timeframe, but she recalls having a class that got out at 10 p.m. her first semester.

“That was creepy, there was no one on campus,” Snyder said. “The teachers and police were like sparse, creepy.”

According to Gallup research, nearly 4 in 10 people are afraid to walk alone at night. Women are more likely than men to admit they are afraid. Yet, research shows that there is more fear among places that are less likely to have crime.

Snyder avoids taking classes that start at 10 p.m. but will take the class if it’s necessary. She’s also aware there are personal safety-related mobile apps, but has never used one on her smartphone.

“One of them you have to keep your finger on it the entire time,” Snyder said. “And then another one you can click start on your phone and if you don’t reach your car within 15 minutes or 20 minutes, it calls 9-1-1 for you.”

Christina Wright, 19, leaves work on Thursdays at 6 p.m. for a class that ends about 10 p.m. She has no knowledge of safety apps.

“When it’s dark outside I’ll walk fast to my car or go on my phone when I see people so they think I’m talking to someone or pretend to be on the phone,” Wright said.

Stephanny Diaz, 22, goes home at 9 p.m. four or more times a week.

“For the most part, I’m used to it by now, so it’s not that scary,” Diaz said. “I only get scared when a car drives or passes right next to me.”

SafeTrek is an app where one holds down on a button and the app notifies the police when the button is released.

Users first enter a 4-digit pin; if he or she doesn’t the app notifies the police, giving them the location of the alleged victim. SafeTrek’s staff of over 50 employees monitor the users’ activity, according to the app’s website.

A recent update allows users to sync this app with other apps. Users are to pay $2.99 a month for this full resources service, but newcomers can test it out with a limited-time trial.

Kitestring is a safety service that uses text messaging to check on its users. According to the website, users range from “real estate agents, online daters, outdoor adventurers, motorcyclists, military spouses, single parents, the LGBTQ community, senior citizens living alone,” and college students.

One can sign up by inputting their phone number on their website. Users can either use the website or their phone. Downloading an app is not necessary. Using the website, tap or click on a button labeled “Embark” and the app will check on you. Everyone gets their number when they sign up, so another way to start a trip is to just send the Kitestring contact “5m” and they will check on you in five minutes.

If the user is not able to check in, then the messaging system will notify his or her emergency contacts with a default customizable message. There is also another option called Duress Code, which allows people to use code words whenever they do not feel safe. If someone feels uncomfortable, they can text the code word and the emergency contacts will know.

The service is aware that an attacker can answer on the victim’s behalf. For that reason, there is an option to use a secret check-in password.The check-in period intervals are customizable from five minutes to three days. There is also an optional check-in password.

If the user’s battery runs out, the Kitestring will send a message to the emergency contact. The monthly fee is $3. Those who pay for a plus account get unlimited trips. The app checks on the person every few hours or minutes, depending on the preference of the person who purchased the account.

One can try it out for free, however, there is a limit of one emergency contact and three trips per month. It is available for any type of phone that allows texting. There is a similar functioning app called Companion that also tracks where the person has been on a map and it pinpoints “A” to “B”. The app is fairly new and only available on iOS.

There are other apps guided towards walking alone at night or walking alone in a parking lot. However, the difference is that other apps require the user to notify them during an emergency, while services like Kitestring and SafeTrek are using inactivity as the main factor, considering the possibility that a victim may not be able to use their phone during an attack.

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