NIU Police to transition from call boxes to NIU Safe App

NIU+Police+emergency+call+boxes+are+located+at+many+locations+on+campus+so+students+can+have+immediate+contact+with+the+police.+

Zulfiqar Ahmed | Northern Star

NIU Police emergency call boxes are located at many locations on campus so students can have immediate contact with the police.

By Julio Ceja, News Reporter

DeKALB — The NIU Police Department is starting the process of phasing out the campus emergency call boxes on campus and transitioning to the NIU Safe App.

A few emergency call boxes throughout campus have been bagged up and unusable since the start of the semester. Darren Mitchell, NIU acting police chief, believes that utilizing new technology that’s available will help with more options for students to connect to the police department. 

“The call boxes on campus have been around a long time,” Mitchell said. “Over 25 years, they’re pretty outdated. We’re transitioning to tech that is being utilized by other colleges.” 

Reasons behind the removal of the call boxes aren’t only due to them being outdated, but as well as the way they were being used by students. 

“We haven’t gotten serious crimes. Over 20 years working here, and I can confidently say that a majority of the calls we receive in those boxes have been non-emergency, non-criminal incidents,” Mitchell said. “When you press that button, we treat that call like a 911 phone call.” 

Various features on the NIU Safe App allow the NIU Police Department to keep better track of students in the event of an emergency.

The NIU Safe App has a mobile blue-light feature that sends the police to the user’s location when pressed. Additionally, the app has a feature called Virtual Walkhome, where a dispatcher is able to track a user’s location until they get home. If students don’t feel comfortable sharing their location with the police, they can share it with a friend instead. 

A planned dismantling of the call boxes will happen over the next two semesters to allow the NIU Police Department to get the message out for students to download the app, Mitchell said. 

“The options that the app has are just more efficient. There are more options aside from just criminal activity,” Mitchell said. “The app provides things like traffic alerts. Students are actually able to direct message dispatchers and ask non-related emergency questions.” 

Anonymous crime tips can also be reported through the NIU Safe App. The NIU Police Department still encourages violent crimes to be reported at the department.