Best Apps for People Concerned with Safety and Security

The best way to minimize your chances of becoming a victim of violent crime (robbery, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence) is to identify and call on resources to help you out of dangerous situations. These five iPhone and Android apps put those resources at your fingertips quickly, and several of them have both free and premium versions. Whether you're in immediate trouble or get separated from friends during a night out and don't know how to get home, having these apps on your phone can reduce your risk and bring assistance when you need it. Although several were originally developed for students to reduce the risk of sexual assault on campus, they are suitable for everyone.

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Courtesy of Circle of 6

Free
Available on iPhone

This app is a must-have for any woman with an iPhone. Designed for college students, Circle of 6 is also useful for high school students or people of any age who want an easy-to-use system to alert friends when they're in a threatening situation.

As fully functional as those apps which require you to subscribe to a monthly/yearly service plan, Circle of 6 has an unobtrusive screen that's simple to operate. Two taps will send out one of three predetermined text messages to 6 contacts of your choice including a call for help getting home that automatically includes an address and map of your exact location, or a request for a phone call from you to break up a tense situation. The app also contains pre-programmed national hotline numbers and a local number you can customize for campus security, police or 911.

Circle of 6 is the winner of the Department of Health and Human Services / White House "Apps Against Abuse" Challenge and its four developers—three of whom are women—have significant expertise in the fields of sexual violence prevention, mobile technology, graphic design and healthy relationship building. 

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Courtesy of Hollaback!

Free
Available on iPhone and Android

"Hollaback! You have the power to end street harassment" is the tag line for this app which tackles the crime one perpetrator at a time. Users can choose to take and upload a photo of their harasser "caught in the act" and submit their story to be recorded and mapped on ihollaback.org. This not only signals the perpetrator that his image will be shared and posted on a street harassment prevention website, but also warns others of areas in which harassment occurs.

Hollaback's premise is that "street harassment is a gateway crime that makes other forms of gender-based violence OK." They encourage users to submit stories and photos of street harassment at every level from catcalls from total strangers to groping hands on a crowded bus and individuals exposing themselves on a subway. An estimated 80-90% of women have been harassed in public, and as Hollaback's executive director Emily May explains, she has a ten-year goal to end street harassment so that she's out of a job. In addition to the apps and website, Hollaback is part of an international movement with locally-based Hollaback organizations in major cities and metropolitan areas in over 18 countries.

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Courtesy of bSafe

Free and Subscription Versions
Available on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry

A personal safety alarm that sends an emergency message to your chosen contacts with the push of a single button, bSafe's slogan is "Never walk alone." The free version allows you to set up a safety net of "Guardians" who can respond to your SOS text message; one Guardian you designate will receive a phone call (both versions give you an unlimited number of Guardians available by text message; the subscription version gives you up to 3 Guardians who can be called simultaneously).

All Guardians receive a text message with a link to a map showing your location via GPS. You can also program a Fake Incoming Call if you are threatened, with six options for when the call should be initiated (immediately, 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes.) The subscription version of bSafe gives you two additional levels of safety: a Risk Mode with real time GPS tracking of your position, and a Timer Mode with automatic alarm activation (e.g. if you don't log in after the programmed time period, your Guardians will receive an alert with your entire route mapped out.)

The original idea was developed by Silje Vallestad, a mom who wanted to use mobile technology to keep her kids safe. With no knowledge of the industry, she won a business plan competition and used the money to create a safety alarm for kids, BipperKids. When other women told her they were "borrowing" their kids phones for their evening runs, she created bSafe.