Rutgers University Police Department launches texting program
Students have a new way of contacting police when they feel unsafe.
The Text to RUPD Pilot Program, launched on Feb. 5, is an alternate way for University students, faculty and staff to communicate with the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD). Students can text and send pictures to RUPD’s Dispatch and Communication Center.
“Let’s say I’m walking home at night, and I think that someone’s following me. I text (RUNB) to 69050, 'I think someone is following me, please send help.' And from there RUPD will receive the message in their dispatch and they will respond to the message and get assistance to you as soon as possible," said Nivedh Rajesh, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
Rajesh, treasurer of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), has worked with RUSA president Matthew Panconi, RUPD Chief Kenneth Cop and RUPD Capt. Paul Fischer to create the program, which spawned from a mobile public safety app that proved too difficult to implement.
“We thought, 'What if students could just text to RUPD?' That was really the most popular thing in the application, and we already had a system like that in place for the RU Fans texting system for football games,” said Panconi, a Rutgers Business School senior.
In the case of an emergency, students should always call 911, Panconi said. For less urgent matters, students can and have already taken advantage of the system.
“Students have used it for off-campus inquiries like, ‘Who do I call if I want to get a car towed?' One student actually saw a suspicious package and sent a picture of the package to RUPD,” Panconi said.
The two main platforms for RUSA’s spring elections were to increase public safety and giving students a greater voice in the Rutgers community. He said this projects targets both these goals.
The program was created as a response to the increase in crime alerts, especially on the College Avenue campus. Students walking home late at night can now can feel more safe, Rajesh said.
“If someone feels unsafe, like maybe they are going to be followed home, after an event like that, they can send a text saying, ‘Hey I’m not feeling safe, can you please provide me an escort.’ It plays in perfectly to increasing the safety of students,” Rajesh said.
Some students would prefer a modified version of this program.
Mariam Aqeel, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the funds would be more useful if put toward a texting system for emergencies.
Panconi and Rajesh are pleased with how quickly the program has taken off. They did not expect a students to begin using the service until the fall semester of 2016, Panconi said.
“We’re changing the culture of how students get in touch with RUPD. We started this because we think students are more comfortable texting now,” he said.
Gabriela Amaral is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. See more on Twitter @sentientfog.