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UM emergency phone system put to the test

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Posted at 11:12 AM, Feb 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-09 13:12:23-05

MISSOULA — The University of Montana has experienced bouts of students being chased, followed and vehicle break-ins.

The University Police are advising students to use the resources available to them, and looking toward the future for improvements.

UM freshman Kaisha Gearhart said she feels unsafe walking to her dorm room at night alone.

"I get really paranoid because when I am walking back I always have to look back and walk in the light you can never be too sure," said Gearhart.

17 gray towers illuminated with a bright blue light are scattered around campus, a beacon of safety in the dark.

Those towers hold emergency phones that connect students who feel unsafe with UMPD's dispatch.

If someone who feels they are in danger presses the button, the light on top of the phone begins to flash and a dispatcher at campus safety comes on the line to ask what's wrong.

Marty Ludemann, UMPD Police Chief, said officers are dispatched immediately.

"Its usually two to three minutes at the most our geography is pretty small we have two if not three officers on in the evenings," said Ludemann.

When MTN News tested the response time of UMPD, the officers arrived in 5 minutes and 43 seconds.

Still Gearhart is worried that she cannot get to one in time if she needed help.

“On my way I walk there is only two of them and I feel like I dunno there should be more,” said Gearhart.

Chief Ludemann said upgrades are on the way that include cameras, a message board with safety alerts and more towers installed around campus.

"We want the ability to have surveillance equipment reader boards so you could put a message out and people can see them as they’re walking by," said Ludemann.

Police Chief Ludemann says UMPD hopes to have the newer systems plus additional phones to be added by next fall semester.

As well as adding more phones on campus UMPD wants to add phone towers to Lewis and Clark Villages as well.