Model Programs

RebelSAFE Models New “Brand” of Technology Integration

Location: University of Nevada-Las Vegas By Becky Lewis Published December 2017

A faculty member concerned about the well-being of a troubled student.

A parent anxious about the dark streets her daughter walks on after a night class.

A student trying to get up the nerve to report a sexual assault.

All of them looking for different services, yet all of them finding them under the umbrella of the new RebelSAFE brand from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and its police department.

Recognizing that the university and the department had an almost overwhelming number of technology options available to help keep the campus safe, UNLV has implemented a plan to collect all of the solutions offered under the umbrella of the RebelSAFE brand. The new model includes a multi-faceted app that serves as the gateway to a number of safety systems; text and email public safety alerts that reach out to registered users, classrooms and the university website; and new emergency phones that use video cameras to supplement callers’ verbal reports.

“We wanted to look at all of our existing infrastructure and find a way to tie it together to maximize our resources,” says Ryan Doyle, director of technology for UNLV Police Services. “We were providing several systems that served their own distinct purposes, and we undertook an initiative that ties all of them together and at the same time, implements new technology enhancements. We have only so many resources to invest, and we want to make the best choices that will maximize our return. We’ve been approached too many times by vendors that want us to adopt some “great technology” that does only one thing.”

With the adoption of that approach came the idea to develop the RebelSAFE brand, with the police department calling on the university’s marketing department and American Marketing Association student chapter to generate an awareness plan that would supplement the efforts of its Public Information Office.

“We had an existing emergency notification system, and when the marketing team took a poll, no one could tell them its name. With RebelSAFE we’re pushing name recognition of not only the app, but of all the services we offer “to keep all of our Rebels safe,’ ” Doyle says. Public Information Officer Hobreigh Fischer, the department’s manager for the Office of the Chief, and Publications Writer Jamie Bichelman worked directly with Ryan Doyle on an extensive Public Information Office campaign, which included techniques ranging from website and social media promotion to radio public service announcements, from releases to local media to advertisements at athletic stadiums. Fischer says the campaign kicked off with a months-long intense promotion, and many aspects are set up on an ongoing basis to ensure the brand name continues to be recognized.

Thanks to that intense campaign, most of the campus should be aware of RebelSAFE and the new app. Available to the general public free of charge through both Google Play and iTunes, it offers a variety of ways to communicate with police services — text, email and phone — to provide tips, ask questions, report incidents, ask for an escort, access emergency services, use crisis services for stalking and sexual assault, and much more. A popular feature is the ‘virtual walk home,’ where a user provides GPS coordinates and a walking route to another individual, who can then make a call for help if the walker deviates from the planned itinerary.

“We encourage parents to install it, so they can use the virtual walk feature and they also can be informed by receiving campus security alerts. Parents entrust these students to us, basically saying ‘I am giving my son or daughter on loan to the university and I expect the university to take care of them,’ ” Doyle says.

Using the student-developed marketing plan, UNLV Police Services is also encouraging students, faculty and the community to install the app, sign up for alerts and be aware of the other services offered. The program transitioned from a “soft launch” to a "hard launch" on Sept. 18, 2017, and multiplied the number of registered users sixfold in the first month, increasing from an initial group of 500 to 3,000. On the day the app went into service, a female student reported a stalking incident, and police used that information to successfully resolve the situation. Since then, tips about drug activity and graffiti have led to more successes. And as more of the campus community signs on, the student marketing group plans to begin collecting feedback via focus groups, surveys and promotional materials that will help the department continue to refine and improve the program: “We’re very fortunate in an institute of higher learning to have students, faculty and staff with a wide range of knowledge, and to be able to call on that knowledge for assistance. It’s a win-win for the campus as a whole.”

Even before that marketing survey gets underway, Doyle is receiving feedback about refinements to the app. He recently met with a staff member about adding a section for the food pantry that serves students in need, to include hours and locations, a call button to the pantry and a form to allow individuals to sign up. As the UNLV Police RebelSAFE brand gains more recognition and the marketing group collects more feedback, Doyle expects even more refinements to the department’s safety campaign in the future.