VCU Police Introduce Mobile App to Report Crime Tips

September 20, 2013

Online Story by Katherine Johnson
Video Story by Khiree Stewart
VCU InSight

RICHMOND, Va.—With the start of the fall semester and new students on campus, VCU Police wanted to make sure students unfamiliar with an urban setting had a way to feel safe and connected with campus police.

So VCU Police launched LiveSafe, a mobile app created by a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, for students to send in tips.

The free app allows students to send tips by text, audio or video. So far, the app has received more than 16,000 downloads. Police Chief John Veneuti said VCU Police launched the app in order to appeal to students.

“Part of our philosophy here is that we want input and feedback from the students. We are always looking for ways to create channels that really encourage communication with the student demographic here at VCU,” Veneuti said.

“We’re also always looking for ways to try to keep up with technology and applications and things that are really relevant to students.”

Before LiveSafe, VCU Police used text a tip for students to report crime or suspicious activities. However, Veneuti said LiveSafe has already seen “heavier usage.” Tips sent in through the app are displayed on a dashboard that’s monitored 24/7 by the campus police’s Communications Center.  Veneuti and some of his staff also receive the tips through e-mail.

“The application is really, really easy to use. That’s why I think it’s appealing to students. It gives them the opportunity…to send us photographs, it gives them the opportunity to send us video and audio, which they could not do with VCU text a tip,” Veneuti said of the app.

Some of the tips campus police have received through the app have dealt with suspicious persons and accidents.

Angela Benitez, a VCU freshman, said it’s her first time living in what she called “a big city.”

“I was aware of possible crime and stuff, but I wasn’t really scared or nervous,” she said.

Benitez, who was unfamiliar with LiveSafe, said she would probably download it after she learned more about the app.

“I think it’s actually a good idea, I think the police department does a good job of…getting stuff done and making an effort, so I admire that and it makes me feel safer,” Benitez said.

Veneuti said the app is a great addition to VCU’s safety portfolio.

“As I’ve said for my entire career here with VCU, I don’t care how you talk to the police department as long as you’re talking to us. It doesn’t have to be in person, but if you see something out there that is unsafe,” he said.

“I want students to kind of bring that to our attention, and I really don’t care how they do it.”