In a nutshell
Safe-Up UCT is a smartphone app, developed and managed by the Safety and Violence Initiative (SaVI) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Safe-Up UCT seeks to empower UCT students and staff to play a more active role in making their campuses safer.
What we do
Background to the project
UCT has invested significant resources to make its campuses safer: patrols by Campus Protection Services (CPS) personnel, secure access control to university buildings, emergency buttons on the ‘blue routes’ and CCTV cameras monitoring at all times. However, prior to the launch of Safe-Up UCT there was no easy and coordinated manner in which students and staff could provide information, feedback and ideas to the university about how to improve safety on and around the various campuses.
About the Safety App: Safe-Up UCT
- Safe-Up UCT is not a crime-reporting tool, nor is it a panic button. It is an app that complements existing crime and emergency reporting systems at UCT.
- It provides a quick and easy way to share information on what makes staff and students feel safe or unsafe at UCT and surrounding areas. This information is then used to identify key safety and crime risks, and to drive an open and participatory process to finding solutions and preventing crime.
- The Safe-Up UCT app is available for free download from the Google Play or iTunes app stores.
How we do it
How it works
- Safe-Up UCT allows students and staff to quickly and easily submit reports about concerns like safety issues in residences, problems with street lighting, or overgrown areas that make them feel unsafe.
- As soon as an incident is logged, a core team of Safe-Up administrators receive an email and a text alert about the incident.
How SaVI deals with/ manages the reports
- The Safe-Up administrative team receives reports of the incidents, and forwards them to the relevant departments who deal with these issues. SaVI then uses this data to compile reports about common trends and crime hotspots.
- Feedback is then provided to the app user, informing them of who the incident was reported to, and which department will be taking responsibility for the incident. In this way, the student or staff member can choose whether they want to follow up with this department.
- The reports via Safe-Up UCT assist SaVI in determining where the key safety shortcomings are at the university, and these findings are then presented to the relevant university authorities for their attention.
SaVI crime insight reports
- SaVI analyses the data from the reported incidents and together with analysis of the crime data collected by CPS, SaVI compiles and releases periodic crime insights reports. These crime insight reports aim to provide the UCT community and visitors with an informed analysis and overview of crime in-and-around UCT campuses. The aim of these reports is not to increase fear of crime, but rather to empower the UCT community to make more informed decisions about their personal safety.
The intention of the app is for SaVI to facilitate solutions to the more pressing safety concerns that are brought to their attention by the UCT community, as well as to organise regular campus safety forums to discuss the information and trends with a view to finding practical and creative solutions to safety problems.
What we have achieved
Safe-Up UCT was officially launched on 11 April 2017 at the University of Cape Town. SaVI Director, Guy Lamb, gave a background to why the app was developed and then explained how it can be used. The launch had a positive turn-out, with the audience largely comprising UCT students.
Impact of the project
Although the app was only officially launched in April 2017, as a pilot programme, many people have already been making use of it since it has been active. Over the course of the next few months Safe-Up will be launched and marketed more widely across UCT.
Safe-Up has allowed students and staff to interact with various university structures concerning issues that make them feel unsafe on campus. These issues are things that might not usually get reported to CPS because they may be considered as minor. However, owing to the reporting of these incidents by UCT staff and students, SaVI has managed to take on a role that might prove preventative of crime and violence in the future. Staff and students have mostly been reporting on issues to do with buildings and residences, as well as suspicious persons or vehicles on campus. The Safe-Up administrative team receives reports of the incidents, and forwards them to the relevant departments who deal with these issues. The data which has been received is then used to compile reports about common trends and crime hotspots. As this is still a pilot project for now, there have not been many incidents reported, but from the reports that have been received, SaVI has been able to make certain inferences.
What we have learned
The majority of users report issues related to buildings and residences. These include reports of broken windows, broken toilet locks, inadequate lighting, attempted theft, suspicious persons and drunk/disorderly persons. Safe-Up administrators pass this information to the relevant departments, who have all taken an active role in ensuring that the reports are handled timeously. Issues to do with transportation are the second largest category users report on. Many students/staff have sent through complaints that Jammie shuttles have been delayed and unreliable, leading them to have to walk or use public transportation. This makes them feel unsafe. Safe-Up administrators have passed this information on to transport monitors, who have been extremely responsive. They investigate why Jammie shuttles were late, and are thankful for the reports forwarded to them, as it makes them able to be more efficient. Safe-Up administrators have also received several reports of suspicious persons. These reports are immediately referred to CPS, who swiftly dispatch officers to the scene.
The major challenge that Safe-Up administrators have faced is that students/staff tend to be unresponsive after the initial incident is reported. Further, the reports often lack sufficient detail that would help various departments improve their services, such as the exact time of the Jammie shuttle that was delayed, or a description of the suspicious person. When Safe-Up administrators attempt to follow-up with students/staff in order to get this information, they often do not receive responses.