We’ve all had that moment when we don’t feel 100% safe. Whether it’s walking home, and the streetlights don’t quite feel bright enough; or when you get an uneasy feeling about someone trying to talk to you in a bar. For some people though, the sense of being unsafe is not an uncommon feeling and can lead to heartbreaking situations. Hollie Gazzard is one such case, but the Hollie Gazzard Trust, set up after her death, have introduced an app, Hollie Guard, to help us all feel more protected.
In 2014 Hollie was murdered in Gloucester by her ex-partner Asher Maslin (who had been stalking her during an abusive relationship); leading to the establishment of the Hollie Gazzard Trust. The Trust actively works to reduce domestic violence through programmes on domestic abuse and promoting healthy relationships to schools and colleges. In 2015, the Trust launched Hollie Guard, their free app which essentially transforms your smartphone into an advanced personal safety device. All you need to do is shake your phone or tap the screen and you generate an alert, which automatically sends your location and audio/video evidence to your emergency contacts.
As soon as you activate the app your location is tracked and sent in real time to your emergency contact: meaning they can get help to exactly where you are. The functionalities don’t stop there, as you can choose your alert profile which is appropriate to your specific needs:
- Stealth – Secretly and silently raises an alarm, perfect for high risk situations
- Deterrent – Obvious alarm that makes it clear to others an alarm has been raised and your location is being tracked. A second shake will produce a flashing light and high-pitched beep.
There are also various features which the app provides such as:
- The Journey Feature, this allows you to notify your friends, family, and co-workers of your movements while traveling. Simply, enter your start and end point, and an SMS & email will be sent to your emergency contacts when you’ve started and safely completed your journey.
- The Meeting Feature, gives you extra protection when you are going to a dangerous meeting or are meeting someone new. Simply enter descriptive information and the duration of the meeting. When the meeting time has expired an alert will automatically be raised.
- Man Down – This function will send an alert to dedicated contacts to make them aware if a person hasn’t moved in a while. The app will flag sudden non-movement and impact, for example if someone has been assaulted or fallen.
We live in a world where it seems impossible to be without your smartphone; so, it seems brilliant to utilise this technological dependency to help keep people safe. And with Hollie Guard currently at 28,000 downloads already, we’re evidently not the only ones who think so. Police forces in Gloucestershire, West Midlands, Cleveland, Kent and Derbyshire have promoted the app and recognise the benefits for domestic abuse victims. Hollie Guard is a simple download but can help protect you if you ever were to find yourself in an unsettling situation or if you end up in real danger.
Founder of the Trust, Nick Gazzard says: “We work very closely with Derbyshire Police and Cleveland, Kent and we were with the Metropolitan Police recently, so it’s getting more known and more widespread, recommended more, and particularly around university campuses as well.”
While the app can be used by anyone and has a growing popularity among stalking/domestic abuse victims and athletes who train alone; a large target for this app is to get young people using it. Kids in school right now or university students have grown up with smartphones, so turning to an app for everything is second nature for this generation. Therefore, The Trust work to promote the app to schools and universities, so that children and young people are aware that, if they’re going to be in an unsafe environment, “there’s an app for that”. Their team speak to hundreds of 13-16-year olds at the National Citizen Service every Summer, as well as attending Freshers Fair’s across the country to help raise awareness about this free app, which could save lives.
As Eddie Hughes MP Walsall North mentioned in Parliament in 2018 for the Latest Reading of the Stalking Protection Bill; Hollie Guards is a tool for aiding victims and “’I believe that it provides a valuable tool. If someone is walking home and feels that they might be vulnerable, the app enables them to register their start and final destination. It will track their progress and, if they do not arrive at that destination within a prescribed time, it can alert people they have predetermined from the contacts in their phone. It can also turn the phone into an alarm so that it gives out a high-pitched noise and the torch comes on as well to attract attention.’’