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Is the Blue Light Special?

Methinks that the Blue Light campus alert system is one of those feels-good-in-theory-useless-in-practice measures that the College implemented only because other schools had done so. Depending on which College source you look at, there are either 56 or 48 of these stations on campus — undoubtedly installed at a high cost (well over $1 million, I expect?):

Blue Light1.jpg

But have the Blue Light stations ever fulfilled an important function? Do terrified students rush to them for help, having been stalked/pursued by an evil predator? That paradigm is not what one thinks of as regards crimes like theft or sexual assault in Hanover. Last summer I wrote to S&S Director Harry Kinne to ask him for statistics on the use of the Blue Lights, and I sent him a message the other day, too. Normally Harry is a good correspondent, but last year he did not respond at all to my request for information, and last week he said that the College kept no statistics on the Blue Lights. Other sources can’t recall seeing any mention of the Blue Light stations generating calls over many months.

LiveSafe Dartmoth.jpgIn any event, technology marches on, and as part of Moving Dartmouth Forward, the College has signed on to the LiveSafe app, which incoming freshmen recently learned about as follows:

This year, we have a new safety app called Dartmouth LiveSafe which will be available to you once you are on campus. It is easily downloaded to your smartphone from the App Store or Google Play. The app provides you access to campus resource information, easy Emergency 911 and Dartmouth Safety and Security communications, anonymous tip reporting and much more. I encourage you to download the app and make it part of your campus safety tool box.

Once again, we have a technology that will potentially provide protection at the moment of the crime. A harried potential victim can call in for help, and S&S will know the exact location of the call (if the geo-locator is enabled) and can hurry to the rescue. But, again, is that the nature of crime in Hanover? Harry Kinne described the software as having the following function:

“Our charge was to identify a Dartmouth-specific safety smartphone app for students to easily and immediately seek assistance if they ever feel threatened.”

Beyond that primary use, Kinne listed the other attributes of the app:

The goal is for any member of the Dartmouth community to easily share information with friends and safety officials about sexual assault, mental health issues, violence, or any safety concerns, thereby preventing incidents before they occur, says Kinne, who led the committee that reviewed existing applications…

“We see it as part of our Bystander Initiative because it allows for anonymous reporting and will be very accessible to students in particular, who are very used to texting as a way of communication,” he says. “It offers another way for people to intervene.”

In addition, users can send photos or videos to Safety and Security or can call 911 directly with the touch of a button. The app can also be GPS enabled.

“We would not be able to see people at all times, nor would we want to, but during an emergency, or if someone were going for a run alone for example, they could activate the GPS. It would only be transmitted if they hit that emergency button and we would be able to pinpoint their location,” Kinne says.

That’s all well and good, but in terms of reducing sexual assault, it is hard to imagine that the app will have any impact at all. Will coercive drunken hook-ups that are regretted at the moment (or the next day or month or year) be restrained by LiveSafe? Let’s at least hope that we regularly hear from S&S about how often the app is used. I’ll bet not very much, but, thankfully, the College will still be able to publicize how very up to date it is.

Addendum: An undergraduate source who has proven reliable in the past writes in:

I do know of one common use for campus Blue Lights: the “Blue Light challenge.” To complete, one must activate each blue light station on campus without being caught by S&S. Extra points awarded for execution au naturel.

Students do have a number of dares of this type, the most memorable being the Dartmouth Seven and the Dartmouth Decade.

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