07-29-2013 - 07:19:PM
EDINBURG - The University of Texas-Pan American police department is turning to a smart phone app in an effort to curb crime on campus.
The app will allow users to report crimes and get alerts, university officials said.
The problem, university officials said, is that many of the almost 20,000 students are not using the app.
Cody Hernandez, a criminal justice student, is among the minority.
"If there's a suspicious person ... they re wearing this and this," Hernandez said of how students use the app to report suspicious activity.
UTPA is the first UT campus to use the app.
"One of the things that law enforcement has to do is look for additional opportunities to provide communication to and from the public," UTPA Police Chief Roger Stearns said.
"We can't just rely on phone calls. We need to find ways to make ourselves more accessible to the community," Stearns said.
The police department will pay $550 a year for the app, Stearns said. It is free to download.
Hernandez said the university is passing out cards to inform students about the app.
Students said the app is a good idea.
"Now, almost everyone has a smart phone. If there's a situation where a student needs to know about an alert, it's quick to find out," Alan Lozano said.
University officials hope the anonymous nature of the app will encourage more students to report criminal activity.
"The cool thing about the app is you can press an anonymous button," Hernandez said.
Stearns said the app may lead to solving more cases. He said emergency and major crimes should still be reported to 911.