Along with my partner Phill Giancarlo, a technology consultant, we are two concerned parents who took a look at rising assault statistics and thought there had to be a better way for people in vulnerable situations to call for help, receive help and use that help to catch and prosecute a perpetrator if a crime were committed.
We founded Wearsafe Labs in 2014 with the express purpose of using technology to empower people, especially young women going away to school or working late at jobs, to feel safer and more secure. The goal was to improve upon anything currently in the market.
Women have always had access to mace, pepper spray and whistles for those who wanted to arm themselves, but according to Wearsafe consultant, security expert, Rich Staropoli, “It’s a dicey proposition, most assailants can see a victim going for something in their purse and can quickly overpower them.”
College campuses do what they can to provide security. Every campus seems to have a blue light emergency phone system linked to 911 or campus security. This system came into widespread use roughly three decades ago and remains popular today, despite its flaws. Staropoli adds that “Most ‘campus’ assaults do not take place on campus, and by many accounts, the call boxes are rarely used.”
It occurred to us that there were real flaws with everything currently on the market.
- Self-security devices or even a smart phone are not discreet! In some cases, just reaching for a phone can escalate a situation
- Calling 911 is not always the answer. If a young woman finds herself in an uncomfortable situation at a bar or party – most would prefer to reach out to trusted friends and use 911 as a last resort
- There’s no context provided for the situation. He said/she said crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Typically there are no witnesses and there may not be physical evidence.
The Wearsafe Tag solves the problems above. By pressing one button, the wearer can send out an alert, which lets a trusted circle of friends and family know her exact GPS location and also streams live audio from where she is, plus up to a minute of sound recorded just before she pressed the button. The contacts can then decide what to do – call the police, send someone over to check on her, or give her a call. The Wearsafe Tag is also discreet enough that she can use it without potentially escalating an unclear situation.
It’s this audio component, unique to Wearsafe, that we see as a game-changer for law enforcement and prosecutors in the often muddied waters of sexual and other assault cases.
Attorney N. Kane Bennett, a former Massachusetts prosecutor and current litigator in civil matters, concluded that “an audio recording from the actual incident, in real time, is incredibly powerful evidence in a criminal or civil case.” Many times, there is no evidence of what is said at a scene. In other cases, it is one person’s word against someone else’s story. Wearsafe first off provides the often missing critical evidence of statements at the scene, and then eliminates any arguments about who is telling the truth.
Highlighting the usefulness of the evidence, Bennett stated “I have personally played 911 tapes to jurors, and I can tell you that they listen intently and with great emotion. A recording captured by Wearsafe would be even more powerful evidence than a traditional 911 recording. It is the next best evidence to an actual video tape, and in some circumstances, even better.”
Bennett also noted “the power of the evidence is clear in any number of situations.” Even in cases where there is someone available to testify as to what a perpetrator or victim says in an incident, he said, adding “Many times there are evidentiary rules or constitutional protections that limit the use of statements. Not so with a Wearsafe recording.” The recording would potentially provide evidence of what is known as an “excited utterance” or “admission” by a defendant, which permits admissibility of the statement by itself without the need for testimony.
Finally, Bennett added “in a case where the victim is not available to testify, Wearsafe may be the only evidence of what was said in the most critical moments and it would allow the prosecutor to tell the real story of what happened.”
It can be devastating to lose any criminal case, particularly due to lack of concrete evidence. We hope this new class of wearable devices is just the tip of the iceberg for more helpful innovations to come.
You can find more information on the Wearsafe device on their website.