Stony Brook University’s efforts to ensure the safety of its students have gone high-tech with a new cellphone application that will supplement the existing blue light phone system and police escorts and act as a direct line to campus police.

Many college campuses have implemented blue light phones and several, like SUNY Oneonta, always have a phone within line of sight of another phone. But Stony Brook, unable to implement such a system on a large campus, turned to a device that almost every student already carries: cell phones.

Unveiled over the summer, SB Guardian is commonly referred to as a portable blue light phone, and all it requires is for users to register their cell phones at the university’s website and complete a profile.

This system and similar ones are already used on other SUNY campuses. SUNY Oswego employs Guardian and Binghamton uses Rave Alert, which texts students when an emergency arises. But Stony Brook, which in addition to Guardian also uses SB Alert to inform students of emergency situations via text message, is the first to use both types of system.

Although violent crime rates are lower on Stony Brook’s campus than in a comparable municipality, campus police are willing to take no chances.

“We like to brag about this; we’re the first campus that uses both systems.” said Assistant Chief of Police and Director of Emergency Management, Lawrence Zacarese.

Stony Brook got the idea from Penn State University. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Penn State, but it’s right there in the city,” said Zacarese. “It’s much different from the way we’re set up.”

Instead of a city, Stony Brook students headed back to their dorms at night have to walk through sparsely occupied parking lots and along paths next to patches of woods.

Campus police also stressed that it would not be phasing out the free rides Stony Brook police give to students on campus—it simply provides a safety net for people who want to walk.

As a panic button, SB Guardian allows users to call university police if any sort of situation arises, reducing the response time. As soon as the call comes in, registered users will also have their profile sent to the police, which includes information on their vehicle, and any allergies or medical considerations first responders may need to be aware of.

Smartphone users whose devices have GPS capability have the added advantage of having their location immediately broadcast to police when they dial for help.

SB Guardian’s precautionary timer mode allows users to set a timer for the length of time they expect it to take to reach their destination. When they arrive, they can deactivate the timer, and police will never know it was set. But if the timer runs out without being deactivated, the phone automatically calls university police.

In addition to the timer function, Guardian supplies a false deactivation code. In the event somebody is forced to deactivate the timer, they simply type in the fake code, and the police are notified.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Ivy Peckman, a Stony Brook student. The only reason I heard about it because my mom’s real snoopy, you know? I wish they’d come up with a better way of making it known.”
A press release is scheduled for this week, and a concerted effort to advertise it during orientations is being made. Zacarese has reported a 25% increase in enrollment in the program.

Additional information on SB Guardian can be found at Stony Brook’s Emergency Management website.