The Maroon

You never have to walk alone

The Companion app makes sure that students have a way to feel safe as they navigate the streets of New Orleans alone at night

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For students who are afraid to walk alone in the dark, there is a new safety app that ensures they never have to walk home alone again.
Developed by five University of Michigan students in August 2014, Companion was designed in hopes of helping college students stay safe.
According to Lexie Ernst, co-founder of Companion, the app has the ability to monitor the user as they walk to their destination. If a walker veers off their path, starts running or clicks the “I feel nervous” button, the app notifies the person’s companions that were added to the app from their contact list.
If the user does not respond that he or she is OK within the allotted 15 seconds, then the app requests companions to contact their friends. If the user finds his or herself in danger, there is also an emergency button that quickly contacts the police.
“It is our hope to use this ‘nervous’ data to work with public safety departments in order to identify areas of concern and to ultimately make communities-at-large safer,” Ernst said.
Ernst said they designed the app because they felt a connection to the college-aged audience since they are students as well.
“We’ve all heard the statistics, and we’ve all heard of those tragic stories that have had lasting devastating impacts on too many communities. Crime on college campuses is much too prevalent, and we felt it was time for this issue to be dynamically addressed,” Ernst said.
Angela Honora, Loyola University’s Police Department Lieutenant and crime prevention and logistics coordinator, said she does not believe the app is likely to reduce crime rates any time soon, but still encourages students to download it.
“Does a criminal know that your phone is set up with an app that’s tracking them? Nine times out of ten, I don’t think they really care. Mainly, because if you’ve seen the crime here, in the Uptown area with the restaurants and everything in the city, they’re quick,” Honora said. “But, will it tell us where you are? Because a lot of times when you’ve been a victim of a crime, you can’t remember exactly where it happened, and the app can tell you.”
Addie Jackson, chemistry freshman, said she appreciates Companion and believes it can be useful.
“I like that the app is free and easy to use. I think it’s great that Companion allows our phones to be an even more effective tool for reaching out to friends for help in potentially dangerous situations,” Jackson said.
On the other hand, Lily Cordingley, mass communication freshman, said she fears Companion could give its users a false sense of security.
“It’s never a good idea to walk through high-crime areas of the city alone, whether or not you have a safety app on your phone,” Cordingley said. “However, if for some reason, it’s unavoidable, then it would be better to have the app than
nothing.”

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Zach Brien, Senior Staff Photographer
A student shows how important comedians like Jon Stewart have been to developing critical thought in America.
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You never have to walk alone