In an effort to provide students with a crime deterrent device that poses no threat to the victim or the attacker, a tech start-up in California invented a small personal alarm. ROBOCOPP has created two separate alarm devices the size of a USB drive that emits a piercing alarm when pulled.
According to Jill Turner, Public Relations Director for ROBOCOPP, the company’s Sound Grenade is a safer alternative to carrying a gun, pepper spray or tasers.
“The point of the sound grenade is to prevent an attack, rather than engage in one,” Turner said. “Most people who carry a small weapon like a knife or pepper spray are not professionally trained, so they end up either harming themselves or harming their attacker. What we found is that with a loud alarm you can activate it from a safe distance to better deter a perceived threat.”
With the 79th Nevada Legislative session beginning next month, students at the University of Nevada, Reno, may find themselves involved in another conversation about a Campus Carry initiative. Last session, the Campus Carry bill was largely unpopular among students and faculty at UNR.
In March 2015, hundreds of students at UNR staged a rally to demand that Nevada lawmakers oppose AB 148, the Campus Carry bill sponsored by then-Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Republican from Las Vegas. The Campus Carry bill was passed in the assembly but never made it out of the legislature. Sen. Greg Bower said his judiciary committee would not hear the bill and killed it.
Part of the controversy over the bill came from UNR student Amanda Collins, who was raped on campus in 2007. Collins, who testified for Campus Carry in 2013, said she would have had the ability to defend herself against her attacker if she had been carrying a firearm.
During the debate, many university students and faculty still remained skeptical of the bill, even after Collins’ story, saying they thought the bill would have little effect on campus sexual assault or crime rates if it passed.
ROBOCOPP’s alarm devices allow students in universities across the United States to use the Sound Grenade instead of using campus carry.
There are two different devices from ROBOCOPP: the Sound Grenade, described as ultra compact for city use, and the Sound Grenade plus, which is more rugged for outdoor use.
“The point [of the Sound Grenade] is to prevent attacks,” said Turner. “It has prevented muggings, it’s useful on college campuses. We made it ultra compact so it fits on your key. It is really useful for students and commuters.”
According to Turner, a student from the University of California, Berkley, prevented a mugging at a train station using her Sound Grenade. The student said she was walking from the station to her car when two men approached her, asked for her money and said they had a gun. The student then pulled her Sound Grenade alarm and the men ran away.
In a study conducted by the International Institute of Criminology, 68 percent of criminals flee a crime scene empty handed the moment an alarm is heard. Another study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology found that around 83 percent of offenders attempt to determine if an alarm is present before performing a burglary.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime’s School and Campus Crime Report, of the violent crimes reported on college and university campuses in 2013, 29 percent were robberies and 18 percent were forcible rapes.
Turner said with ROBOCOPP she hopes to eventually see crime become nonexistent. She hopes that with the devices, the likelihood of someone getting caught would eventually become 100 percent.
“When a community is using it, you think about a college campus, the students, staff and faculty have a built-in sense of community, so the benefits of having a sound grenade on campus are really two-fold,” Turner said. “Not only is the effect of the alarm a crime deterrent, but it also allows campus safety patrols to respond to an incident more quickly, so campus police are huge supporters in that sense. I think it really starts there and it moves forward and when you have that many students using a crime deterrent, that alone is a deterrent.”
An issue Turner hopes to address with ROBOCOPP is that violent crime is not exclusive to one gender. Turner said that sometimes college campuses address violent crime prevention exclusively in relation to female students and faculty. Turner said ROBOCOPP is utilized as a nonviolent tool by both genders.
“[ROBOCOPP] sounds like an awesome device. I carry around a canister of pepper spray, but I have never tried it out and part of me wonders if I would even be able to use it if the time came,” said UNR student Jillian Rhodes.
Though carrying a firearm onto UNR’s campus without a special permit is forbidden, students can turn to devices like ROBOCOPP that may make themselves, the students, staff and faculty around them feel safer.