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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

‘NIU safe app’ continues to replace emergency call boxes

What’s Up With: NIU emergency call boxes
Sean Reed
An emergency call box sits on the walkway on an overcast day across from Huskie Stadium near NIU parking lot L. NIU is in the process of removing and dismantling its more than 80 emergency call boxes across campus. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

Editor’s note: This article is part of an investigative news series called “What’s Up With?” Fill out the form for potential coverage of a topic here.

DeKALB – NIU is in the process of shutting down and removing all of the emergency call boxes around campus with the intention of relying on the NIU Safe app for emergency situations.

There are over 80 emergency call boxes placed around NIU’s campus. When the button on an emergency box is pushed, it directly contacts the police and sends them to the location immediately for help.

Currently, some safety boxes are not working or are covered up.

Darren Mitchell, NIU campus chief of police, said the university has been developing a plan to remove the boxes and focus on more advanced technology.

“They (NIU) have invested in upgraded technology like the NIU Safe app because it is an app that many universities across the country have, and it is something we have been using for several years,” Mitchell said.

The NIU Safe app has a feature for emergency situations.

“The app acts as the emergency call boxes that are on campus right now but it is in the palm of your hand,” Mitchell said.

Natalie Mealing, an undecided first-year, said the NIU Safe app is good to have, but there are some flaws to completely removing the emergency call boxes.

“There are times when your phone dies or you can’t get to it,” Mealing said. “The call boxes are a consistent option when phones can be inconsistent.”

Mitchell said all technology has its limitations, and the police highly encourage students to make sure their phone is charged.

“We have found that the technology has been very helpful and useful, and the feedback that we have gotten from some of the users has been very positive,” Mitchell said. 

The NIU Safe app has a feature called the “Friend Walk” where students can select a friend on the app to monitor their location in real time for safety purposes. The app also acts as a way for the NIU police department to directly watch your location if you activate the “Virtual Walkhome” or “Mobile Bluelight” feature. The app will give you weather warnings and a map of the campus. 

“You can also provide a tip if there is a crime tip you’d like to provide to the police department anonymously,” Mitchell said. 

The emergency call boxes have been in the process of shutting down for a couple of years. The boxes that are officially shut down are clearly marked to indicate that they do not work, and the plan is for them to be removed in 2024, Mitchell said.

The NIU Safe app is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. There is more information about NIU safety procedures on the NIU website

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