Armstrong Police making strides in campus safety


20160823_200635Lucy Stone, News Editor

Over the summer, the Armstrong Police Department and Facility Services were busy installing school safe lockdown devices on doors across campus. This device was first tested last spring in the Science Center and is now present in the majority of classrooms.

The lockdown device will allow students, faculty and staff to secure doors from the inside in the event of an active shooter situation on campus regardless of the type of lock already installed on the door.

Chief Wayne Willcox explained that by thinking outside of the box and researching their options, they were able to find the best possible solution for the most affordable price: “We took a potentially devastating public safety issue that was going to be hugely expensive and it only cost the university less than $2,000 total to do all of the classrooms.”

Each school safe lockdown device cost only $11. A possible hundred thousand dollar or million dollar project was accomplished for a fraction of the cost by discovering these devices.

During an emergency, students, faculty or staff can simply push the metal device into the emergency position parallel with the door frame and shut the door. It will securely lock from the inside. Instructions are displayed on all doors where it is installed.

Aside from the lockdown devices, the Armstrong PD has been advocating its Pirate Safety Mobile Guardian app. Students may have noticed signs across campus advising students to download the free app. However, the Pirate Guardian app is not a new tool for the Armstrong PD and has been available to students for two years. Unfortunately, according to Chief Willcox, only around 10 percent, or 700 students, use the app every semester.

The app includes several features that can help protect students as well as improve communication between students and the police department.

The Safety Timer feature allows students to set a timer for the approximate time it will take them to reach a certain location around campus or during any other scenario where they may feel unsafe. Once it expires, the “guardian” will be alerted to check on the user and be able to see the user’s exact location. The default guardian on the app is the Armstrong PD but students can also add friends and family to their guardian list.  

Through the Send-a-Tip function, students cannot only report suspicious activity or vandalism to the Armstrong police, but also send pictures of fallen tree limbs or potholes on campus under the “repair needed” category.

An immediate emergency call connection to the Armstrong PD or 911 is also available within the app.

Armstrong senior and biochemistry major Amy Neely was unaware of the app until now, but is planning on downloading it. “I think it’s a good idea for people who are on campus at night because it can be pretty scary, especially after the active shooter situation,” Neely said, referring to the Sept. 15 shooting last year. A single shot was fired at 3:05 a.m. into an apartment at the Compass Point 8000 building.

“I would use the app if I felt unsafe for some reason,” first year nursing student McKenna Neidlinger said. “I definitely think it would make people more comfortable asking for help. It’s way more convenient and up to date.”

The convenience of using the app is one of the appeals Chief Willcox wants to get across. He used an example of a scenario where a student is witnessing someone trying to take advantage of another person who is under the influence. If that student feels uncomfortable directly becoming part of the situation, with the guardian app they are able to take a picture of what is happening and send an anonymous tip to the police department so they can dispatch an officer.

“You have contributed. You have helped somebody. And at the same time, you’ve protected your identity so you feel good about that and you don’t have to deal with any possible aftermath,” said Chief WiIlcox.

Students can sign up for the guardian app using their school email. To download the app, search “RAVE GUARDIAN” in the app store. It is free and available for both iPhones and Androids.