Questions about crime on college campuses often come up when kids and parents are looking at schools.
"The data has been collected for many years," Gary Margolis said, "and it's not as easily understood as one would think to look at the data and try to make sense of it is a challenge."
It's a challenge UVM's former Police Chief Gary Margolis and his team with the new Campus Sentinel App are tackling. The free application for your smartphone and iPad is crunching security statistics that are regularly reported to the federal government for more than 4,000 colleges and universities. Users can look at the numbers of weapons, alcohol and drug violations, as well as property and violent crimes at schools across the country.
"The app became a way to use the technology of today and take this information this enormous amount of information and do something useful with it and make it much more understandable than it currently is," Margolis said.
Lauren Starkey is the mom of two college students. She helped research and write much of the application's content. She says Campus Sentinel can help busy parents find important information connected to their kids' safety.
"I don't know how many parents would just sit down and do the research on their own. I mean, I have two kids in college and I was really shocked when I started doing research on this project about how much I didn't know," Starkey said.
In addition to checking stats and a tool that allows users to compare one school to another, the application also provides a wealth of resources to help find other safety information related to studying abroad, spring break, mental health and sexual and gender violence.
"If you try to bring up those subjects with your kids sometimes they look at you as an alarmist or reactionary, they just don't want to hear it, but I think that the app gives you a lot of resources to start a conversation with your kids," Starkey said.
Margolis says the tool is just one that folks should use to choose a school and stay safe once they're there. He cautions users that different colleges respond to and report incidents on campus differently, so an "apples to apples" comparison is not always possible, but says the technology is a step to reaching kids in a way that works.
"McGruff the Crime Dog was great in its day, but students aren't connecting with that. They're connecting with social media, so we're developing crime prevention strategies for the new student so to speak," Margolis said.
The free app has been available for three weeks and so far roughly 500 people have signed up to use it.
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:39 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:39:09 GMT
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