Blue Light Boxes Reevaluated


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

Recently, members of the campus community, including Student Senators Kelly Behselich and Zach Lee, have taken an interest in the blue light boxes on campus and other resources for campus safety.

The blue light boxes go by many names: blue boxes, light boxes, call boxes, etc. The boxes have been on campus for over a decade, and their primary purpose is to help those who do not have a cellphone and are in an emergency.

Although technology has advanced greatly within the past decade and almost everyone has a cell phone or some mobile device to contact emergency services, blue light boxes are still an essential part of campus security. Having the blue light boxes around campus provides a sense of security for those walking alone.

Senator Kelly Behselich is the Sexual Assault Advocate in Student Senate and is investigating how beneficial the blue light box resources have been on campus. “If somebody just slips and hits their head on the ice, another person sees the situation and the blue light box nearby. They can go on to it and call, or they can run to a blue light box and then continue to run to get away from an assailant. If there’s an issue, that then alerts the police without trying to go and grab your phone,” Behselich said.

Behselich and Senator Zach Lee conducted a survey to see what students would do first when confronted with a situation. “We’re just trying to gauge student involvement with the resource. Because if more people are using the blue light boxes, then we know that maybe we should make more people aware of what the blue light boxes actually do because there is a lot of confusion about them,” Kelly said.

Recently, concerns over the cost and upkeep of the boxes have led to questions about keeping them. The number of blue light boxes fluctuates based on how many of them are working. According to Sergeant Jason Williams from the UW-Platteville Police Department, there are 41 “Emergency Call Boxes.” The blue light boxes were not built specifically for Wisconsin weather, as ice can form over the button making it impossible to push.

The boxes are expensive, as each cost $10,000 comprised with expensive and hard-to-find parts.

Each month, the police department goes around and checks the blue light boxes. Behselich has personally gone with campus police to observe this process.

Along with the blue light boxes, UW-Platteville offers the Rave Guardian mobile app, which allows students to request a police officer to walk them somewhere as well as access to many other resources from the police and campus. There are some locations where the blue light boxes are not necessary, such as the one located in front of the police station in Brigham Hall and other places on campus where foot traffic is always heavy. 

Lately there have been some boxes covered with police tape to indicate that they do not work. In response to the questions of students not being notified, Kelly stated, “The Communications Department only sends out information once unless it is mandated that an email needs to be sent out multiple times.”

This is not to say that the blue light boxes will be taken down because of the rise in technology.

However, there are currently no plans to add more blue light boxes, just plans to replace them. “There is a five-to-ten-year plan of fighting our time to keep all the resources available to students, because the blue light boxes are used. Students do still use them,” Behselich said.

Sergeant Jason Williams offered information on how often the boxes were used. Last semester there were three people who used the blue light calls for help in a situation. In comparison, last academic year only two people used them for a situation. Williams noted that many people do hit the button without being in an emergency, but rather to play with box, which is concerning for those who utilize the boxes in actual need. Additional plans for the future of campus safety involve more students downloading the Rave Guardian app so they can access resources anytime and anywhere around campus.

Williams noted that “Thanks to generous donations from the Alumni Association and the Student Technology Advisory Committee, UW-Platteville will continue its contract with the Rave Guardian Safety App. This application is available on both Android and iOS phones. This application provides several personal safety and crime prevention tools for all students, including a safety timer, emergency contact shortcuts and a quick button to 911, which is basically a digital ‘Call Box in Your Hand’. We would encourage all students, staff and faculty to check it out.”

Kelly said that plans for the future of the blue boxes can be amended especially after the Safety Awareness Survey data has been collected.

The UW-Platteville campus wants to be a safe place for students, faculty and staff. There are many resources, and people should know that they are available. Kelly explained: “So just kinds of things like that where there’s a bit of a discrepancy between just general knowledge. So that’s where our survey mostly fits in. It’s just trying to figure out how we can help with different safety procedures.”