Editorial: Mobile safety app not sufficient replacement for Blue Light System

There are 273 blue light towers scattered across campus, and 56 more at the regional campuses, according to the UITS manager in charge of blue phones Michael Williams. (William Chan/Daily Campus)

The blue lights found across the University of Connecticut campuses may soon disappear in favor of a modern approach. The Division of Public Safety at UConn, which includes the Police Department, Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management and Fire Marshall and Building Inspector’s Office, is currently attempting to implement a mobile safety app to eventually replace the phones found at blue lights, according to Daily Campus reporter Annie Pancak in a story published on Feb. 9. While a mobile safety application would serve as a good addition to the current system, phasing out blue lights ignores the inherent benefits of a non user-based system.

There has been an increase in the number of “out-of-service” blue lights seen throughout campus, a testament to the upkeep necessary for the system, as well as the need for regular inspections by UTIS. While blue phones have been a part of the UConn campus since the mid-90s, most were installed in 2000. Most colleges utilize blue phones as their principal method of establishing campus safety. There is a large red button that alerts campus police who respond through the speaker and arrive at the location of the blue light. Currently, there are 273 blue light towers located in Storrs, while 56 others are at the regional campuses. 

Other colleges are looking to incorporate apps with their blue light system, however, there is talk of replacing the blue lights completely. Unfortunately, this does not seem like a viable idea given the propensity for malfunction with the UConn-Secure Wi-Fi network, as well as smartphones in general. The current UConn mobile application, “myUConn”, which accesses everything from bus routes to class schedules, has a tendency to malfunction. Many times, the buses are not synced to the application, causing students to miss the bus by just minutes.

If an application is being brought in to reinforce the current blue light system, then it should be supported by the student body. However, a smartphone application is ill-suited to become the exclusive approach to create a safe environment on campus. The times in which students are traveling through campus by foot at night are also the times in which phones are more likely to be dead, broken or lost. Also, the classist nature of this move would severely handicap those who cannot afford a smartphone, or choose not to have one.

Even from a practical standpoint, would the individual have time to find their phone, scroll through the apps to find the rarely used but nonetheless imperative mobile safety app? Despite, students’ inclination to constantly be coupled to a phone, it’s not an indication of a trend to be utilized when determining tactics of promoting safety.  For matters of safety, a less-technical blue light approach is superior, so long as UTIS improves their maintenance.