RENO — As mobile phones continue to get bad raps for distracting drivers, teens and workers, innovative people are hard at work putting together apps for iPhones, iPods and Android devices that keep people alert to the dangers of who lives where and in which neighborhoods.
The newest app, called Circle of 6, winner of the White House “Apps Against Abuse” is technology designed to prevent sexual assault and dating violence among young adults.
Dating violence and sexual assault are widespread problems among women with nearly 1 in 5 reporting assault while in college. With two taps, Circle of 6 connects users threatened with possible sexual assault and abuse to a network of their choosing of trusted friends using GPS technology, anti-violence online resources and a commitment of support.
The app is freely downloaded to iPhones and iPads and is the winner of a challenge launched by Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Resources Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. It is currently available.
Washoe County Deputy Armando Avina downloaded it Thursday and said the application appears to be a helpful tool.
“It’s a valuable tool if you find yourself in a bad situation,” Avina said. “If you are getting a really bad vide, you can see a message to a person to say, “call, I need help.” People have (these phones) with them all the time.”
The app also has an option to report a sexual assault or rape. It is equipped with GPS technology and can send map locations to the selected circle of friends of the phone user. When the phone user sends out an alert message with the map location, those friends will be able to locate the victim through the message. Messages can also be sent, asking friends to call the phone owner back with an excuse to get them out of the situation.
“It also calls you back and gets you out of the situation,” Avina said. “It sends a message back to say ‘thank you, Ive gotten help.’”
Alert ID is another application that can be downloaded on phones and devices that is locally based. When pulled-up on devices, using GPS technology, the user can tap on a point of interest and find a sex offender’s information, the offender’s name, crime and detailed information about his or her arrest record.
Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley endorses Alert Id, Avina said. The application is a free online web service. Users can sign up online to protect their friends and family, said creator Keli Wilson.
Alert ID is meant to create a safer living environment by making the most current public safety information immediately available to all users. It uses a two-way communication system between citizens, federal state and local authorities to serve up immediate information on crime, terrorism, natural disasters that threaten safety of family and community in all areas of the Washoe County and the state. Starting May 1, Alert ID will have more features, Wilson said. On Thursday, the system announced it had made “significant enhancements to its free online system, adding virtual neighborhood and community watch pictures to its member services.”
The new changes with the Virtual Neighborhood will allow members to receive alerts and advisories from more than one location. Members can now register and add up to five additional address locations to their account. This will mean they can register their mother’s home, business, child’s school, child care, etc., Wilson said. Instant threat alerts are accessible through free applications on your phone and tablet, as well as through emails and texts, according to Alert ID. An interactive crime map shows you potential threats to family, schools and the the community. An electronic neighborhood watch helps warn neighbors and them to warn others. Police and emergency authorities can also inform people when there is something that poses a danger to the community. Using the unique Alert ID system, members are constantly connected to neighbors, local police and fire departments and federal and state agencies to exchange critical information that can help keep family and community safe, whether the threat is national, local, or personal such as a missing child.
The system has 60,000 members statewide and is expanding into 10 westerns states by June, Wilson said.
“Two days ago, a member posted on the Community Watch that a 13-year-old was followed home by a suspicious vehicle,” Wilson said. “The child made it home. The member, though, wanted to make people aware of it. They verified it with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and broadcast it to members within a 3-mile radius to several thousand people, so there’s really power in numbers and power in people.”
Wilson said she came up with the idea when she had lost her children in an amusement park, after the “moment of terror” passed, she decided she could do something to protect children and families.
“We can protect children and we can protect families, neighborhoods and everyone,” she said. “That’s really how it all started.”