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By Zach Hansen and Anna Logan

You shouldn’t fear college. Thanks to the Clery Act of 1990, students have been able to get real data on campus crime, university police departments and emergency systems. One of the most common preventative measures at University System of Georgia (USG) campuses are blue light phones. However, the digital age has made some question their cost efficiency at preventing crime against students. The price of safety extends beyond on campus resources. Some campuses, including the University of Georgia, offer free services to prevent students from making unsafe and costly choices.

Dissecting the Effectiveness of the Emergency Light System

As of 2017, 11 of the 28 USG schools feature blue light phone systems. The number of individual phones can range from as few as eight to as many as 60, depending on the size of the campus. With the adoption of cell phones in the 21st century, many have claimed that blue light phones are now technologically obsolete.

However, blue light phone manufacturers would disagree. In a graphic provided by Code Blue, a Michigan-based security company that sells blue light phones, eight advantages are listed that favor blue light phones over mobile safety apps. This list includes the ability for first responders to pinpoint the location of the call to the durability and accessibility of call stations, which don’t require previous downloading or cell service. One of the points mentioned is the low maintenance cost versus recurring mobile app fees each semester.

That doesn’t mean these blue light phones are cheap though. In researching their cost, Code Blue and Rath Security, a Wisconsin-based security company that also sells blue light phones, both provided cost estimates for their various blue light products. In an email estimate, Code Blue provided a wide range of $1,500 to $10,000, stating that prices vary based on the added features and the enclosure type. Rath Security provided a price list for over 40 products, but two of the most common types of blue light phones are 9-foot-tall call towers and 36-inch-tall call stations. Prices range from about $3,000 to $6,000 for 9-foot towers and $1,700 to $4,500 for 36-inch call stations depending on the model, power source and connection type.

This begs the question of how effective these stations are in practice. On paper, they might have multiple advantages over mobile phone calls and apps, but are they actually deterring crime? And if so, is it significant enough to warrant tens of thousands of dollars in upstart costs?

To answer this question, crime data from 29 USG schools (Georgia Perimeter College was considered separate from Georgia State College) was collected from Clery Act reports to search for any trends or correlations from 2014 to 2016. The five types of crime that were analyzed were rapes, fondlings, robberies, aggravated assaults and stalkings, since those are more likely to be prevented by blue light phones.

Based on the data collected, there was no conclusive statistical evidence that showed blue light phones made any difference in lessening these crimes. Each crime was looked at individually, taking into account enrollment numbers and campus sizes, but no discernable trend was found. Does that mean no crimes were prevented by blue light phones over the past three years at USG schools? Not necessarily, but it’s tough to justify encouraging campuses to spend the money to install more blue light phones without a clear statistical drop off in crime.

Below is an interactive map that summarizes the data collected by university. Click on each campus to see that university’s 2016 crime statistics as well as a chart showing the total amount of these crimes per 10,000 students. There’s also primary links at the bottom for campus maps and further crime information.

Check out crime statistics at various Georgia campuses.

Map won't work? Use the dropdown menu below.

An Evening with Designated Dawgs

The reality of college is that students will ultimately make a lot of mistakes. They’ll fail tests; they’ll date the wrong people; they’ll party too hard. Some choices are easy to fix: study harder next time, be choosier on Tinder. Some are irreversible. Some choices, like drunk driving, are followed by a lifetime of regret, pain and legal bills.

On average, a DUI in the state of Georgia costs around $10,000. From bail to legal fees to higher insurance costs, DUIs are one expensive mistake. For students at the University of Georgia, however, there is a cost free alternative. Designated Dawgs has been around for 16 years and in that time they’ve given over 86,000 late night rides from downtown Athens. Their rides are free and confidential, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for would be offenders. This is their story.

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