DCCCD offers new safety app

RaveGuardian is a new app available to help students and police make campus a safer place and reduce student worry. 

“Our role here is to make sure our students and our faculty and our staff know that the police department is here, that we’re prepared to respond to any type of emergency,” said Lauretta Hill, chief of police for the Dallas County Community College District. She is one of many officials greeting the new school year with a sense of apprehension. 

In the wake of a string of recent mass shootings and tragedies across the U.S., Hill and her team are working to ensure that students, faculty and staff know they have options if they feel panic setting in. While officials have distributed materials to help faculty and students know how to respond, the effectiveness of their message can only be proven through practice.

Hill issued an email statement to the district on Aug. 6 that outlined resources available to the DCCCD community prior to the new school year. It is now posted online. 

“All this can be told to you so you know what to do in case of an emergency,” Hill said. The important thing, however, is that staff knows how to handle each situation. 

“The students are going to look to them when something happens. ‘What are we supposed to do?’ And if the student hasn’t read it, then the staff has to know what the protocols are.” Not everyone has read the email, however, and some may have missed it. 

Although reaching out can be a competent way of encouraging safety knowledge around campus, there’s no guarantee that everyone will know what to do. So, for those who want to ask for help and don’t know how, DCCCD has a solution.

“We’ll be rolling out a new app which is RaveGuardian. Within the palm of your hand, you have the ability to instantly communicate with dispatch via text or you can call,” Hill said. 

If students are worried about having their name given out to police or other privacy issues, don’t. RaveGuardian can assist with that too.

“You also have the ability to send us information and remain anonymous or tell us who you are.”

In addition to having the ability to report suspicious behavior anonymously, either by photos or via text, users can get protection even if they’re walking alone. 

 “A student can initiate a virtual escort and can select either for police dispatch to track them or somebody they trust: somebody that has the app,” said Richland Police Capt. Mark Lozano. “Let’s say I’m a student and I tell mom to download the app. Now I have the app. At night, I can launch the app, launch the virtual escort, select ‘mom’ and then it will send mom a text message. Mom will open the text message and it will show a map. It’ll show a dot travelling through the parking lot. So, the same feature can be used with dispatch,” Lozano said.

Anyone in the user’s contact list is able to utilize the app. 

“Once the student gets to their designated location, it will say ‘arrived.’ It will stop the virtual escort and then it’ll disconnect communication with the other person. So, it’ll give the student some ease that Big Brother isn’t necessarily watching but during that period of the escort it will give permission for them to be followed per se,” he said. 

Students are also invited to start a conversation with local officers.

Yet a situation can arise in bringing attention to procedures around campus. 

 “I want to make sure that the staff is aware that they know what the emergency procedures are,” Hill said.  “We send out messages. We try to do district wide. And at each orientation at the campuses there will be police on hand to answer any questions, to talk about the emergency drills and emergency notification system,” Hill said. 

For the incoming class, freshman orientation is one way to reach out. For students who have already gone through orientation, though, it may be more of a challenge to reach out to police. 

 “Sometimes, it also helps when students say, ‘Well, I really don’t want to be seen walking with a cop,’ or ‘I really don’t want that person to know I asked for the police escort’ - that they’re in fear of somebody,” Lozano said. The new app is a way to help ease the conscience of the DCCCD community.

RaveGuardian isn’t the only solution offered by police and security. There is a plethora of options. 

“So, this virtual escort is just another alternative,” Lozano said. “We’re here for them. It’s our job that we provide a safe, learning and working environment for them. We’re here and we encourage them to come and talk to us.” Students can speak to officers on campus or visit their office. Students are also encouraged to sign up for campus alerts.  

 “We also have our community partners, our law enforcement partners that will assist us. We also have ways so that they can prepare themselves to ensure that they are safe in the event that something occurs.” 

Those who are interested in downloading RaveGuardian can find it for free in any mobile app store or a https://www.raveguardian.com/.