Cell phones provide unlikely source of security

Sarika Jagtiani

A gaggle of female students streams out of the Wellness Center at dusk, many of the women chatting to each other or on cell phones. A chorus of slamming doors echoes their departure as a lone woman turns off a jogging path and disappears into a maze of dorms, her headphones blocking the sounds drifting over from across the street.

Some women may not feel threatened while on campus at night, but they also may not realize that they’re already carrying a safety device with them: a cell phone.

Lyn Bates, vice president of the non-profit group Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment, encourages women to use safety measures, including carrying a cell phone.

“I’m not surprised that many college women don’t think of cell phones as safety devices,” Bates said. “They don’t consider themselves to be in any danger, and don’t think they need safety devices. Unfortunately, college women are in the peak age for rape, 16 to 24.”

Although there was only one sex offense at Kent State University in 2003, according to the Police Services statistics, Crime Prevention Officer Alice Ickes knows this may be inaccurate.

“We know from years of experience, input from the FBI and psychologists that sexual assaults are highly underreported,” Ickes said.

With the police force patrolling campus, campus security guards, shuttle services and the escort service in place, students have reasons to feel safe. In fact, Kent State has one of the safest campuses in the country, according to research done in connection with the FBI.

Safe as Kent State may be, Bates still feels as if women should know how to defend themselves and how to use their cell phones to their advantage.

“If a cell phone is all you have, you should know how to use it most effectively,” Bates said.

Bates explained that under the stress of an attack, a person would lose their motor skills, which would make dialing a cell phone “almost impossible.” She advises women to have 911 programmed into one of their speed dial buttons to avoid this problem.

“When you get connected to the emergency services, tell them immediately exactly where you are, then tell them what the emergency is, and only then bother with details such as your name,” Bates said.

She explained that if the phone is taken away, but you get the place and type of emergency to the operator, the police will be able to send help even if they don’t know your name.

The Federal Communications Commission, FCC, is trying to make it even easier on emergency services to find 911 cell phone callers by implementing the FCC’s Enhanced 911 plan.

One of the steps in the E911 plan is to get cell phone carriers to give precise location information (usually within 50 to 300 meters) of 911 callers to emergency services, according to the FCC Web site.

While Ickes agreed that cell phones can come in handy, she also cautions that talking on your phone while walking can distract you, and you may not see someone approaching.

Ickes believes in the old-fashioned buddy system.

“Informally buddy up with people,” she said. “There is safety in numbers.”

Walking with classmates to your car, carrying your keys instead of digging for them in the dark and using well-lighted walking paths, entrances and exits are all smart precautionary measures, Ickes said.

She also cautions students not to ignore their instincts and encourages them to call the police if something strikes them as odd or unusual on campus.

“We really have to look out for each other in a community like this.”

Contact general assignment reporter Sarika Jagtiani at [email protected].