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App fights end-of-semester crime on UT campus

UT Police warn students of a spike in thefts and other crimes at the end of the semester. An app helps students stay safe on campus.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Tuesday is the last day of exams for the 2019 spring semester at the University of Tennessee.  Police say this is the time of year when campus experiences a spike in crime.

"The reason crime increases around finals time is the theft of unattended property.  You have lots of students in common areas like the library cramming for exams and they may leave items unattended for just a minute and everything is stolen," said Mike Williams with UTPD.

Freshmen Magdalene Smith-Stephney and Delaney Tureson studied in Hodges Library this week, very much aware their laptop may be targeted by a thief.

Credit: WBIR
University of Tennessee students work on laptops in Hodges Library.

"I see how it happens because they [students] leave it unattended. They're like, I'm just going to the bathroom and then all their stuff is gone.  Your whole life is gone and I would cry if that happened to me," said Smith-Stephney with a nervous laugh.  

UTPD said students have an app to report thefts, suspicious activity, and any type of crime on-campus.

"The LiveSafe app is our safety app. It allows our students to contact our dispatch. It has a feature where you can take pictures, audio, or even video footage and then send that to us.  Then we can send officers out to investigate and see what's going on," said Williams.

RELATED: University of Tennessee rolling out new campus safety app

Williams said this is also the time of year when students burn the midnight oil and walk by themselves late at night.  The app allows students to make sure they never walk alone.

Credit: WBIR
LiveSafe app mobile interface used for safety on college campuses, including the University of Tennessee.

"The app has a function where people can watch you walk, even if they don't have the app on their phone.  It sends a friend a link to see the person's location and movement on Google Maps.  You can also put in an estimated time to arrive at your destination.  If they don't reach their destination, it will send the person who is following them a notification that maybe they should check on them and make sure they're okay," said Williams.

Smith-Stephney said she recently asked Tureson to use the function to follow her progress from the library to the dorm at 1 a.m.

"Watching her walk back, making sure she's good. Just going to the dorms and stuff, you never know late at night. You want to make sure your friends are safe. So, we do use the app which is nice," said Tureson.

Credit: WBIR
University of Tennessee Knoxville campus.

UTPD said the app also allows students to communicate with police and provide their location silently, something that is important in active-shooter situations where the person contacting police may be hiding.