This is cross-posted from Hollaback! Boston.
Women who sign up for Streetsafe, which starts at $19.99 a month, can call the company’s trained security advisers 24/7, no questions asked. Streetsafe offers two services: “Walk With Me,” billed as a personal safety escort service, and “Silent Alarm.” The latter is self explanatory — if you’re not able to call 911 yourself, slide a red button and StreetSafe will do it for you, using your GPS data to contact your local police station — but the former feature is really what makes the app stand out. “Imagine walking alone, or in an uncomfortable environment, but nothing has happened, so you can’t call 911. Walk with Me connects the user to a live Safety Advisor who will stay on the phone with you and keep you alert until you get to your destination safely,” says their website. If the situation becomes more dangerous, Streetsafe will contact 911, but the officials I spoke with said that hasn’t actually happened since they launched last August. Instead, most StreetSafe customers use the service on a regular basis, as a precaution.
I think we can all agree that the fact that we even have to fear walking alone on the street is a sad reality (one that we’re trying to change with your help!). The Jezebel article describes the app as being for “proactive and paranoid women,” the latter half of which I have to take issue with. Is it really paranoid to be afraid of being approached, threatened, or asasulted when experience and statistics prove that certain demographics (women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community) are more likely to have these things happen to them? I would call that being realistic and having geniune concern for your safely, not being “paranoid,” which is a symptom of psychotic mental illness.
I see pros and cons to this app. Many people already do this kind of thing already. I know that I often call my mother when I’m walking alone. This Hollaback Girl called her brother. It’s very common to say to people “if you don’t hear from me by this time, make sure that nothing has happened to me,” or “please stay on the phone with me until I get home/to work/to my appointment.” Not everyone has someone that they can call, which would make this app a good resource for them. It would also be a good resource for people that work hours not conducive to calling a friend for a chat on their walk home– I know that I don’t have many friends that would appreciate a 2 AM phone call “just until I get home.” I also really like the 911 feature of this app. Though the company says that they haven’t had to use it yet, I like knowing that it’s an option.
On the otherhand, being on the phone can help lower your guard and make you a better target for being attacked since you are less aware of your surroundings while you’re distracted. The prices are also kind of high, so there is definitely a specific demographic that would be using this app. On the whole, though, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. There is also an app available for Android called “Guard My Angel” that is similar in nature (but utilizes texts moreso than calls) and costs less money.
What are your thoughts on this app? Would you use it? What do you do when you feel unsafe on the streets?