Blue lights help despite pranks

Tammie Tamara

Tammie TamaraSection Editor

Every time a button is pressed on the emergency blue light boxes set up at 11 locations around campus, the UPD will come running.

“We’re coming as fast as we can,” said UPD Chief Tim Heaton. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re in a bad situation. We’ve had someone having a heart attack once. That’s why we take it seriously.”

All officers on duty will respond to the emergency call. Counting student officers, SDSU has about four on during the day, and sometimes more at night.

Unfortunately, they receive far more prank alerts than real ones.

Heaton said a button is pushed about four or five times a month. Only once every two months, or one in eight hits, is a case where the person actually needed help.

Many students are unclear on when it is okay to use the blue light boxes.

Heaton defined “okay” as “If you’re scared at any time. If there’s a reason, even if it’s not the best reason.”

Button-pushers should wait at the box for help to arrive.

“Sometimes we run, and sometimes we get in a car and go over sidewalks,” Heaton said. The UPD will be on the spot in about 30 seconds. “I don’t think we’ve been over a minute yet.”

Students who would like a UPD escort from one place on campus to another should call the UPD office at 688-5117.

However, if they are already outside and feeling worried, it is okay to use the button.

“If you’re that scared, you can push the button,” Heaton said.

Pranksters should realize that pushing the button and running is a class one misdemeanor for false reporting of an emergency.

If caught violators face a maximum punishment of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

UPD catches about 80 percent of the people who hit the button and run, he said.

The boxes were installed three years ago on campus.

“It was a good investment,” Heaton said.

Students agree. They say the boxes offer peace of mind, even if they’ve never had to use them.

“I know where all of them are,” said Patty Lopahs, a sophomore pharmacy major. “I’m glad they are there. I’m just glad I’ve never had to use them.”

Her one concern is that if she were being followed, her pursuer would know enough not to attack within range of a blue light box.

Knowing the boxes are there makes freshman Ruth Marquardt feel better.

“If you’re walking alone down the dark sidewalks and you see the light, you kind of feel a little safer,” she said.

She mentioned the lights have uses beyond her own personal safety.

“I think they’re good to have. If you see something late at night and there’s no one around, you can push the button,” she said.

Tyler Mahowald, a sophomore apparel merchandising major, said he appreciates the boxes.

“It’s nice if you’re out walking around late at night, especially since on campus there’s not a lot of streets that go through, so you don’t see a lot of cops driving around.”