BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A local college is literally putting safety in the hands of its students.
Lehigh University has teamed up with an app developer, in an effort to prevent crime on campus.
The new technology is essentially putting security cameras in the palms of students with smart phones.
"It's similar to a virtual escort," said Campus Police Chief Ed Shupp.
The university has invested in EmergenSee, a free app that allows students to show campus police what's going on around them in real time.
"Our campus dispatchers will get an immediate alert," Shupp said.
The alert will pull up the student's name, cell phone number, GPS location, and a live stream video if they're within the geo-fence borders.
"If they feel in distress or see someone out of the ordinary, they can hit the start," Shupp said.
Once the student ends the live stream, they must tell dispatchers why they started the stream.
"It'll give us the prompt system, what it may be: never mind, it's a test, call me, or send help," Shupp said.
That response must also then be verified.
"Everyone has their own safe word," Shupp said.
Providing a safe word is a requirement to sign up.
In addition, users must provide their name, phone number, emergency contact, and email address.
Additional information, like medical notes, a picture, and vehicle information, is optional.
The university launched the app for students over the weekend. So far, more than 500 students have signed up, and university officials expect that number to climb.
"I think it's a great thing," said Amanda Nowak, a student.
"Something might happen, so for me to come back home by myself is not something I'm comfortable doing, so I would rather have this. It's kind of just like a safety net," said Kristen Mejia, a student.
While Lehigh says campus crime has been on the downswing the last four years, campus police said apps like EmergenSee are worth every penny.
"It's more of a preventative tool," Shupp said.
Campus police encourage students to test it out, but not abuse using it.
Students and faculty can download the app for free here.
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