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MU student-made public safety app experiences growth

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | 6:41 p.m. CST; updated 11:29 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 11, 2013

COLUMBIA – Since its public release in early October, SafeTrek, a locally made smartphone application, has experienced steady monthly growth. 

SafeTrek is a mobile app designed for people who find themselves in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation but aren't quite ready to call the police for help.

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When the app is opened, a blue button appears on the screen. The user then holds the button down until he or she feels safe or leaves an uncomfortable situation. When the user lifts his or her finger from the screen, that person has 10 seconds to type in a four-digit pin number. If the pin number is not entered in those 10 seconds, the phone automatically calls 9-1-1 to alert the nearest police department. 

"The real goal is to eliminate that feeling of being unsafe," co-creator Zach Winkler, an MU alumnus, said in a previous Missourian article. "Maybe you're being followed or maybe scared; it can give you a little bit of comfort, holding down that button and knowing that you're doing something proactive to protect yourself."

Over the past three months, SafeTrek has logged 1,623 downloads solely on word-of-mouth marketing. SafeTrek is also maintaining around a 30 percent retention rate, which is fairly high for mobile apps

"Our downloads have been consistent every single month, which is really exciting for us," said co-creator Zach Beattie, a management student at MU and vice president of the Missouri Students Association. "We've gotten a lot of really great feedback." 

Originally designed to be free to individual users, the app now costs $1.99 from the iOS App Store. Beattie and Winkler first envisioned having police departments pay for the app to log and map calls. But police departments didn't bite.

Beattie sees an upside to charging for the app. "If someone pays for something, they are more likely to use it," he said.

Whenever the app is used, the location of the user is recorded. Winkler and Beattie hope to soon create a map of the 100,000 places the app has been used so far and share that information with the Columbia Police Department to help it identify areas in the community where people feel unsafe.

But the app is usable across the entire country and is designed to call the nearest police department.


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