Safety app allows students more freedom

Feb 17, 2014

Students concerned for their safety have a new option when it comes to walking home at night.

MU students Zach Beattie and Zach Winkler have released a safety app called SafeTrek. The app is fairly simple to use: Students open the app when they feel in danger, press down on the shield-like icon while they are walking, then release the icon and type in a secret pin when they feel safe. If the icon is released and the pin is not entered within 10 seconds, local police are dispatched to the phone’s location via the GPS.

The app has more potential than just keeping students safe, according to SafeTrek’s Columbia Territory Manager, Joey Greenstein. Because the app gathers location information from users, SafeTrek is able to compile this information and give it to local authorities, helping them pin point more dangerous areas around the city.

“We might see people are using the SafeTrek app in one area in particular or multiple areas in particular,” Greenstein says, “and if it’s a concentrated area, what that data will show us is that once people see all the Safes specifically in that area we can go through the city government and go to the police precinct and say ‘Hey we noticed from our data that this area is unsafe what can we do to help make this area more safe?’”

SafeTrek is also not limited to just Columbia or its college students, anyone across the globe is able to download and access the app for $1.99. Greenstein says everyone should be allowed the comfort of a safe walk home at night.

“It’s extremely important for safety to be a number one priority, especially for college students, but not only college students, but for people everywhere,” he says, “whether they’re working late and they need to get to their car at night and they’re not so sure about it, we want them to feel comfortable, you know, walking where they want to walk and doing what they want to do and knowing that there’s a safer place around them because of the work that these guys are doing and the work that we’re doing for the SafeTrek app.”

While the app was released in May, it was not available for download until August. After fixing what Beattie calls “a few bugs” and doing “some extra polishing”, the SafeTrek team focused on word of mouth, paid internet advertisements, and meetings with other universities to get the word out on the app. He says within a few months the service has seen exponential growth with downloads across the nation.

“We have over 6 thousand downloads all over the United States, and some international downloads even, which we didn’t really expect.” He says. “They’re in all 50 states in the United States, Missouri’s a big one just because we’ve really pushed it here at Mizzou.”

While the app has had success, Beattie says this project has always been centered on making changes in safety in Columbia.

“We wouldn’t be doing this project if we didn’t really believe it had an impact here at Mizzou, so it didn’t start as a business, it didn’t start as anything other than a project that we were really interested in.” He says. “Every time someone decides to pull it out and use it they’re not just using it for their own safety they’re also providing information that could potentially really make cool changes to the city that wouldn’t happen otherwise.”