By Priscila Korb
Since blue light phones are outdated and rarely used, said Assistant Police Chief and Director of Emergency Management Lawrence Zacarese, Stony Brook University Police are implementing SB Guardian, an updated system to the blue light one.
“The thing you have to understand is that they pre-date cell phones,” said Zacarese, referring to blue light devices. “They were originally designed to fill the gap and give students a quick way to communicate with the police.”
According to Zacarese, the 145 blue light phones around campus are only used to make an emergency call about once a month, which adds up to about five to ten times a year.
“Some phones have never even been used,” he said.
Police use them the most, he said, but only during regular inspections to make sure the phone connections and lights are working, and that the signs are there.
Last June, the University Police started SB Guardian, a mobile security system that connects a student’s cell phone to the university police.
Students can go online and create a profile, providing information like their phone number, e-mail, a picture of the student, their class schedule, etc. If the phone is GPS-enabled, the police can also track the student’s location.
If a student’s phone is registered within the system, he or she can call campus police, who will have instant access to the student’s profile, which will make interviews over the phone shorter and could effectively eliminate any miscommunication.
One component of SB Guardian is a timer that students can carry when alone on campus and set to how long they expect to be walking for and then shut off when they reach their destination. If not turned off, police will be notified when the time runs out and will make contact to see if the student has arrived safely.
Another feature, called panic mode, allows a person to contact the police when they are in a situation where they are unable to speak. The police will then be able to access the student’s information, even if he or she has hung up or if the phone was destroyed.
According to Zacarese, when SB Guardian first started, there were 15,000 people registered, but dropped after graduation by about 50 percent.
“We didn’t expect that,” he said. “We’re really trying to focus on freshman and really working with the community.”
So far, police have received 17 calls using the new system, all of which were emergency situations.
Zacarese said that all but one person who set off the system, did so inadvertently or were testing it.
“One out of 17 saw a deer walking around the academic mall,” he reported.
The police are working with Campus Residences, outreach programs and the Residential Safety Program to step up campus safety.
“The biggest crime is resident burglary,” said Zacarese. “We’re trying to educate people, trying to get them to lock their doors.”
In addition, campus police are working to install more Closed Circuit TV cameras around the academic mall to keep watch over the entrances of every resident hall.
According to Zacarese, there are currently 150 cameras on campus residences, mostly in West apartments.
But the blue light phones are not yet extinct.
“We’re not getting out of the blue light phones business,” said Zacarese.
The police are considering installing 2-way cameras on the phone to increase interaction and the number of sustainable blue light phones by installing solar-cellular phones.
“They’re cheaper and can be installed in any location,” Zacarese said.