An easy-to-use smartphone app is the key to combating incidents like the recent attacks in central Wellington, according to developer Vincent Wong.
The Malaysia-based Victoria University graduate said the Watch Over Me app, which he and four other young entrepreneurs have developed, was an effective personal safety tool because it tracked users' movements without them having to be hands-on with the device.
"Users enter into the app how long they want to be watched over for, and it will track their movements via GPS until they check in safely," Wong said.
"If they fail to check in when time's up, the emergency contact list is notified immediately with the user's location and planned route via email, Facebook or SMS."
Users are also able to report any suspicious crime on a map and view crimes reported by other users.
The premium version of the app, which is available to New Zealanders for $2.30 a month, allows users to trigger an emergency alert with a small shake of their phone, so notifying their emergency contacts and turning on the phone's voice recorder and video camera.
Fellow Watch Over Me developer and abduction survivor Chin Xin- Ci said the app differed from a lot of other personal safety apps, because users did not have to reach for their phones, unlock them and hit the panic button.
"If something bad happens to you, at least people will know where you are and some evidence would be captured through the voice recorder and camera," Xin-Ci said.
Victoria University student Lucy Moss-Mason, who started an online petition for increased safety measures and patrolling around the Boyd-Wilson path to The Terrace, said she would support the use of the app if individuals felt it would increase their sense of safety.
"I have friends who keep 111 dialled on their phones when walking alone at night because they feel unsafe, so I would 100 per cent recommend it in that case.
"That being said, the onus is on the university, police and council to increase safety measures. It shouldn't be solely the individual's responsibility."
Victoria University spokesperson Maria Cobden said the university had been looking into the app's effectiveness.
The free and premium versions of the app are available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Wellingtonians will soon be able to access the newer version of the app, which includes a feature that notifies users when they are entering a high-crime area.
- The Dominion Post