Blue Light system makes campus safer, but only if it works
Published: Sunday, October 20, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 20, 2013 22:10
Ever since our first tours of the UConn campus, we have all heard about the UConn blue-lights – officially known as the Code Blue Phone Kiosks. Throughout the Storrs campus there is an extensive network of over 200 phone kiosks located in all campus buildings, parking garages and in numerous bus shelters. They are also located on streets and walkways across campus. There is a detailed UConn map of every phone location on the UConn Police website. In the event of a university-wide emergency, they are automatically activated with flashing lights and voice messages. Or if you are in distress, phone kiosks, which are equipped with a GPS tracker, can be used to contact the UConn 911 system directly with the push of a button.
These phone kiosks make travelling around the huge campus a little more secure for students. The phones are connected directly to the UConn Police Department and are monitored 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, including all holidays. Especially at night, the phone kiosks make long walks back to your room after studying at the library or working out at the gym more comfortable. Not to mention, these long walks sometimes come with dangerous distractions, such as cell phones and loud music, which might make you less aware of your surroundings. Code Blue Phone Kiosks are a great effort taken by UConn to improve safety on a campus of around 17,000 undergraduates.
When looking at the incidence of crime on the Storrs campus, we can appreciate the phone kiosks a little more. According to U.S. Department of Justice, 20 to 25 percent of women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape during their college career. In 2012, there were 13 reported cases of sexual assault on or near the Storrs campus, however the actual number of sexual assaults might be far higher, according to UConn Police Chief Barbara O’Connor. There is a real issue of sexual assault both on and off campus. The convenience of the phone kiosks can help the issue by making reporting crime easier and more frequent. Of course, they are not only there for reporting sexual assault. The phones can be used to request help, report a crime in progress, report suspicious activities, request an escort or for any other type of emergency you may encounter.
Most of us have heard about the UConn video from 2012 that made fun of the UConn phone kiosks. The basic premise of the comedy sketch was that a woman attempts to use the phone to call for help during an assault, but is unfortunately directed to a supermarket because the kiosk ridiculously mistakes the word “rape” for “grapes.” The phone threw some derogatory names at her as well. This was all a very negative depiction of the emergency service that belittles the importance of safety and reporting crime on campus adding to the problem. On many college campuses, people do not report sexual assault because they are fearful, they want to avoid a frustrating and possibly traumatizing judicial process or they just don’t understand the legal definition of sexual assault. Videos that demean helpful services like the Code Blue Phone Kiosks reinforce the problem.
Considering the importance of the Code Blue Phone Kiosks, it concerns me that there are a few on campus that don’t work. Numerous times a week, I walk by a Code Blue Phone Kiosk between the library and Dodd center that has a sign on it that says, “Phone Out of Order.” I have seen this particular phone out of order for a while now and am reminded of it whenever I see someone casually leaning against it or a bike locked around it. Hopefully, UConn is making efforts to fix this issue and restore a little sense of security at that small corner of campus.