MSU police hoping more students download SafeMSU app

Posted at 9:42 AM, Mar 17, 2022

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — This week, an autopsy report confirmed 18-year-old Brendan Santo died of an accidental drowning with a high level of alcohol listed as a contributing factor.

His body was found in January in the Red Cedar River nearly three months after he first went missing while visiting Michigan State University.

A chain link fence along Beal Street near the Red Cedar River is a glaring reminder of the tragedy where Santo went missing. The fence is only temporary as the school plans to install a permanent solution, which students say could be helpful.

"Definitely, I think the fences are going to help," MSU student Sean Zelek said. "There’s a lot of rivers, a lot of places where you can get lost.”

Santo's death has led to numerous safety changes at Michigan State beyond just the fencing, and many of those are already in place. The school added 300 new security cameras, and every dorm now has cameras up and running.

In December, the school launched a new SafeMSU App for smartphones, and police are hoping to spread the word.

"I’ve seen emails, but I haven’t looked into it,” Zelek said of the app.

"I haven't heard of it, no," MSU student Jillian Mckenna said. "Not yet at least.”

So far, the app has only 9,000 downloads, but at a school with roughly 50,000 students, MSU police are hoping for a lot more.

“It's definitely important. We’ve gotten a lot of messages from parents specifically about the app,” Dana Whyte, a spokesperson for the MSU Police Department, said.

MSUPD helped create the app, which includes emergency resources and a feature where friends can share their location with each other when walking alone.

“That’s probably the most commonly feature is the virtual friend walk," Whyte said. "Basically, someone can open the app and share with their friends if they’re walking alone and just want someone to know where they are.”

After learning more about the app, Mckenna said she'd use the app with her friends.

"Especially us, we’re always walking around not together,” she said.

Until Wednesday, Mckenna and her three friends all hadn’t heard of the SafeMSU app. They then downloaded it and tested it out themselves.

"This is good," MSU student Julia Schiano said. “I think a lot of students would benefit a lot from that app and using it.”

In the wake of tragedy comes change. The change is not only from the school, but from students who vow to keep an eye out for each other, especially when out drinking.

“You got to look out for each other, especially on these weekends, it’s crazy.” student Sebastian Zelek said.

The app is completely free to use and anyone can download it.

You can find it on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.