Safety escort app may debut this fall

As early as next fall, people crossing campus from dusk to dawn may be requesting safety escorts via a smartphone app. The app will make the ISU police's escort program more convenient for students, faculty, staff and campus visitors, said interim chief of police Aaron DeLashmutt.

The app, to be selected through ISU's bidding process, will be similar to RideCell or TapRide, applications currently in use at universities around the country.

DeLashmutt said Iowa State's application will connect pedestrians directly with their escorts, students employed by ISU police. Currently pedestrians must call a central dispatcher, who in turn assigns a safety escort.

"This should reduce the chances of location miscues and delayed pickups," he said. "People will be able to pinpoint their escorts' arrival times. Rather than standing on a sidewalk or street, they'll be able to stay in the warmth or safety of a building while they wait."

The apps will be available free in the usual smartphone formats, DeLashmutt said. Those who don't use the app still will be able to summon a safety escort by calling ISU police at 294-4444.

More requests

Safety escort requests rose from 1,800 in 2006 to 6,300 last year, and DeLashmutt expects those numbers to keep climbing. The efficiency of the new system will help police cope with increased demand, DeLashmutt said. Removing the dispatcher from the middle of conversations between requesters and escorts saves time for everyone. It also frees the dispatcher to monitor activities and ensure that everything is working smoothly.

How it works

The safety escort program is free and open year-round (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.) to anyone who is uneasy about walking on campus.

Escorts provide rides or on-foot service to and from:

  • All university properties
  • Private facilities leased by the department of residence
  • Greek properties

 Approximately 16 Iowa State students run the safety escort program. The students, known as "community service officers," wear uniforms or have police IDs. They perform other duties for ISU police, such as locking and unlocking buildings, jump-starting vehicles and checking for fire hazards.