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A vital new
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StreetCard™ Personal Alarm FAQ’s

What is COPS™? 

StreetCard is a personal protection card about the size of your university ID badge. Your university may choose to use StreetCard as your ID badge. StreetCard contains special electronics that you can activate to call the campus police immediately if you need assistance or are threatened anywhere on campus.

You also might activate your Streetcard if you witness an accident or assault, or if you experience a medical emergency.

How does COPS work?

You fold your StreetCard by closing your hand around it to signal for help. It is simple and fast.
The Police dispatcher sees who you are and where you are on a computer screen.
A Police patrol vehicle is dispatched immediately to assist you.

What else should I know about COPS?

No. StreetCard only reports your location and ID after you activate it by folding it. It is dormant until you activate it. But at all times it keeps you within instant reach of the campus police, should you need them. You can feel safe and secure when you are walking the streets and outdoor areas of the campus. {Back to top}

How does StreetCard work?

Folding the StreetCard activates a special radio transmitter in it.

The StreetCard system includes electronic modules placed on light poles throughout the campus to receive and locate your StreetCard’s unique radio signal.

Your unique StreetCard ID is relayed to the police dispatch center.

A secure database within the StreetCard computer associates your unique StreetCard ID with your personal information. Your StreetCard does not carry any personal information, only a number. The modules on the light poles capture your Streetcard transmission and pass it to the system computer to determine your location.

Your name, relevant personal information, and a digital photograph are retrieved from the database and your exact location is calculated. This information is displayed for the dispatcher.

The police dispatcher provides this information to the nearest patrol car. The patrol officer immediately responds to your location and will be able to recognize you from your photograph.
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Who should carry and use StreetCard?

  • All Students
  • All Faculty and Staff
  • All Researchers, visitors, and contractors on campus
  • Residents of the community within the area patrolled by the campus police. {Back to top}

Where am I protected?

The university police will provide a detailed map of the protected area. The StreetCard system boundary typically is the area that is patrolled by the campus police. The perimeter of this area will be identified clearly in the information that you receive.

Outside of the designated protected area, you will not have protection because there will be no electronic modules to hear and relay the signal from your StreetCard.

Designated parking lots and garages within the patrolled area will be protected.

Outdoor areas such as parks within the boundaries patrolled by the police are usually protected.

Designated indoor areas, particularly where people may work alone, can be included in the coverage.

Designated areas outside the patrolled area, such as restaurants or parking lots patrolled by other police or security jurisdictions could be covered. This will depend on arrangements for police response that may be negotiated by the university.
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Would I need to carry my StreetCard all the time? Aren’t nights the dangerous times on our streets?

Students, faculty, staff, visitors, and residents of the community are at risk on the streets of many of the most elite university campuses in America. One might think that danger from criminal elements is a problem mostly at night when it is dark. But on Valentine's Day, 2011, at 11:35 AM a student on the University of Chicago campus was robbed at gunpoint. This incident prompted a campus wide security alert. The perpetrator remained at large, the student and staff population remained at risk, and the image of the university was tarnished as the public learned of the dangers to students and others on campus. So it is wise to have your StreetCard within reach at all times, particularly when you are alone.
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What else should I know about StreetCard?

StreetCard is very reliable. Redundancy is built in at several levels. The electronic modules that receive and relay alarm messages are powered by solar panels and batteries, so city power failures will not prevent the system from protecting you. Your StreetCard communicates over a dedicated, licensed radio channel to ensure that your call for help gets through without interference. Diagnostic software continually checks the electronic modules to ensure that the system is working when you need it. Test stations on campus allow you to test your StreetCard at any time so that you will have the peace of mind of knowing it is functioning properly.

Your StreetCard is a ‘single use’ device. You will never need to wonder if the battery needs recharged or replaced. You will never need to worry about it wearing out. It is assigned to you by, or on behalf of, the campus police. If you use your StreetCard, the police will provide a replacement StreetCard after they respond so that you are always protected.

StreetCard never transmits information until you activate it. Thus StreetCard cannot track or follow you around campus until you activate StreetCard to signal an emergency. StreetCard retransmits its ID multiple times after it is activated. If you are running, or are being forced to move to a new location, this information will automatically appear on the Police Dispatcher’s computer screen and will be relayed to the responding patrol car.

Most students and staff will never use their StreetCards. If you are a student, you will return your StreetCard after you graduate. If you are a member of staff, you can expect your StreetCard to be replaced every four to five years.
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Do the university police officers also use StreetCard?

All police staff will carry a StreetCard for off-duty use. The campus police officers and other security staff on patrol will carry special personal alarm devices on their utility belts. These devices can be activated manually to signal for assistance. In addition, these units may have an automatic activation capability if the officer is motionless or in a prone position. The officer’s identification, location and photograph are displayed.
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Why do I fold StreetCard to signal for assistance? Why not use a button, like most other alarm systems, to call for help?

Very simply,
No buttons = No nuisance alarms. A nuisance alarm is an alarm that was activated when you didn’t intend to do so. Campus wide systems can have many users, particularly in a large university. With, for example, 30,000 users in a system, nuisance alarms would be unacceptably high if an alarm activation device with a button were used. Buttons can be pushed or bumped accidentally, especially when the device is carried in a purse, pocket, or briefcase, or around the neck. If each person in a 30,000 user system were to create only one nuisance alarm per year, then the police would be chasing an average of more than 80 nuisance alarms per day. That would not be acceptable for a life-saving system. Police would be chasing nuisance alarms (if they did not give up and start ignoring alarms) when they should be available to assist you in a real emergency. StreetCard has no nuisance alarms.

The format of StreetCard is like a credit card or ID badge — familiar and easy to carry. In fact, if the university chooses to do so, StreetCard could be your University ID badge so that you do not need to carry anything extra. When not used, for example when you are in a class, it could be put in your wallet, briefcase, pocket, or purse. Alarms with buttons tend to be bulkier and more awkward to carry and don’t readily fit in a pocket or wallet. Most devices with buttons are not suitable to wear around your neck. Because StreetCard is easy to carry, you are more likely to have it with when you need it.

You would be more able to activate StreetCard in a high stress situation such as if you were being threatened with violence. Activating a button requires fine motor coordination that is often lost in a panic situation. Folding your StreetCard by closing your hand is a gross motor action. You are much more likely to be able to notify police if you use StreetCard instead of a device with a button. Of course, you need to have StreetCard within reach when you go out into the streets or into a dark parking garage. Wearing it around your neck at all times, or keeping it in your hand, or in a convenient pocket if you have one, is often the best solution.
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Can you give us a slightly more technical explanation of how StreetCard works?

StreetCard, in the form of an ID badge or credit card, is carried by every person requiring protection. We have named this card StreetCard™ because its main purpose is to protect you when you are on the streets alone. However the system can be configured for indoor use also. StreetCard is activated by folding it. Normal flexing, as might be encountered when carrying StreetCard in your purse or pocket, will not activate it.

An activated StreetCard transmits a radio signal repeatedly to notify the campus police dispatcher of a need for assistance. A network of receivers and transmitters ensures that your call for assistance reaches the police dispatcher. Your StreetCard’s signal communicates only a number, unique to your individual StreetCard. When your StreetCard was assigned to you, your information in the campus police database was associated with this number. Thus the number alone reveals no personal information. If you move to a new location after you have activated your StreetCard, repeated transmissions will enable the system to follow you and report your updated location.

StreetCard includes a network of small solar powered electronic modules installed on light standards and power poles to provide alarm coverage within the patrolled area. A special receiver in each electronic module hears the alarm transmissions from your StreetCard. Multiple receivers in different nearby locations will hear your alarm transmission. This is important both for redundancy and to enable your StreetCard’s location to be determined accurately.

In addition to the special StreetCard receiver, each electronic module contains a radio transceiver that is part of a redundant ‘Mesh’ RF network connecting every part of the university campus to the police dispatch office computer. Your StreetCard alarm transmission is inserted into this network for transport to the police dispatch center.

At the campus police dispatch center, StreetCard’s audible alarm alerts the dispatcher that someone needs assistance. Your unique StreetCard ID enables your personal information to be located in the computer’s data base. The StreetCard computer display shows the location of your StreetCard on a detailed campus map. The display also shows your name, digital color photograph, and profile so that police will recognize you when they arrive to render assistance. If you have special medical needs, you can have these included in the displayed information. All StreetCard alarms are logged, time stamped, dated and archived.

The police dispatcher will immediately notify the patrol car nearest to your location. Some police dispatch systems will automatically forward the dispatcher’s display with your photograph and other information to the patrol car. The patrol car will respond and you will have immediate assistance.

A series of StreetCard Testing Stations will be located throughout the university community in convenient locations. By simply inserting a StreetCard into the Testing Station, much like inserting a credit card into a chip reader, the functionality of the StreetCard electronics is verified and the results are displayed for the user and logged by the system computer. If the StreetCard is functioning properly, a green light on the tester is displayed, indicating all is well. You, and StreetCard’s computer, are notified of any CARD transmitters that fail when tested. The police will replace a faulty StreetCard immediately.
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Why not use my cell phone to signal an alarm?

Dead spots
! There are always locations where a cell phone may not work because it cannot ‘see’ a cell tower. This can happen in the shadow of buildings, in parking garages, and in other areas. It can depend on which service provider you use and on where their towers are located. When you are protecting your life, you need to know that an alarm message will ALWAYS get through. StreetCard is designed to never miss an alarm. It is tested in every street, alley, parking garage and other protected area on the campus when it is installed, to ensure that help will be available when you really need it.

Dead Battery
! Have you ever wanted to make a call and found that your cell phone battery was not up to the task? Do you always remember to charge your cell phone’s battery before you go out on the campus streets at night? What are your chances of a dead battery once your battery is a couple years old? StreetCard’s battery and electronics are not shared with other tasks. They are never used until you activate your StreetCard to signal for assistance. So StreetCard is always ready when you need it. With StreetCard, you will never put your safety or life at risk because of a dead battery.

! In a panic situation, you may not be able to push a button. To be blunt: when persons are so scared that they are peeing their pants (it really happens), they rarely have the fine motor coordination to push a button. And imagine the difficulty of trying to display and activate the correct button on the touch screen or tiny keypad on many of today's popular smartphones!

! Many cell phones are relatively large, compared with an ID card, and your cell phone may be in your purse rather than your hand when you need it. StreetCard is a much more convenient device to carry in your hand, around your neck, or in a convenient pocket.

! A cell phone, and in particular a smart phone, is very conspicuous. You can’t pull it out and make a 911 phone call while your assailant waits for you to do so. StreetCard can be folded with much less risk of attracting attention. Activation is fast, simple, and reliable.

! A cell phone will not locate you to within a part of a city block. If you are facing a potential assault, you will not be able to speak into your cell phone and tell the 911 operator where you are. StreetCard not only provides accurate location and ID information, but your position is updated if you move or are forced to move to a new location after activating an alarm. {Back to top}

How can I get more detailed information on COPS?

StreetCard will increase the effectiveness of police patrols by reducing response times and increasing the accuracy of responses. In this way, it will help to minimize the requirement for additional patrol staff on the streets, while providing better protection for you.
Rapid police response will increase the probability that the criminal is apprehended. This will make you safer and reduce the need for campus alerts.

StreetCard will reduce crime rates, not only by increasing the number of apprehensions of perpetrators, but also by reducing the willingness of perpetrators to instigate criminal activities within the StreetCard coverage area. The effect of a reduction in incidents has been observed in prisons where locating personal alarm systems have been used for many years to protect staff.
Universities often express the desire for the police to be more ‘in touch’ with the community. Offering StreetCard protection to the community residents will contribute to achieving this goal. The increased safety provided to the community by StreetCard will help to build positive relationships with the campus police. The actual reduction in crime rates that will occur after StreetCard is put into use will further contribute to this goal.

Growth of positive relationships can be expected between the campus police and the university faculty and staff that use StreetCard. Staff resignations because of safety concerns, which have been identified as a problem at some universities, might also be reduced.
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