Indian Students In The US Use Local Safety Apps Amid Recent Deaths

Indian Students In The US Use Local Safety Apps Amid Recent Deaths

After at least 11 deaths this year alone, Indian students in the U.S. are taking safety precautions while navigating the emotional impacts of these events.

Simple VishwakarmaUpdated: Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 02:36 PM IST
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Indian Students In The US Use Local Safety Apps Amid Recent Deaths | Unsplash/Canva

Due to the rising number of deaths of Indian students in the U.S., many of them have started taking their safety seriously in the country. While many have been extra cautious, others depend on the available resources to face the challenges posed to their safety.

Several Indian students lost their lives in the U.S. in recent months, some from natural causes and others under mysterious circumstances. As of Apr 14, at least 11 Indian students had lost their lives in the U.S.

Safety measures and daily routine

Zawah Ali, a student majoring in counselling at the University of Memphis, Tennessee, didn’t alter her routine but has been increasingly cautious about her surroundings and avoids going out alone at night.

Tabassum Chohan, a post-graduate student at New York University (NYU), told The Free Press Journal (FPJ) that although her daily routine hasn’t been affected, she started carrying pepper spray for her safety.

Similarly, Dhiren Motwani, another post-graduate student in computer science at NYU, has become extra vigilant, while not changing his daily routine.

“It hasn’t affected my daily routines, as usually we have classes or we do daily chores during the day when crime is very rare. But during the night, we try to avoid travelling alone, say from 2 am to 5 am. After staying in this city, you get to know which areas should be avoided, and this happens in every city,” Motwani told the FPJ.

Discussing safety measures, Motwani further added, “We carry a $20 bill with us as a safety measure. There is also a Citizen app that reports all the crimes in real time. Not just crimes, gas leaks, or missing persons/pets as well. Additionally, it features a tab that shows the whereabouts of the registered offenders. Based on my location, we do receive notifications when a crime is reported in the vicinity.”

The students believe that it’s important to carry at least $20 as emergency cash when stepping out.

Screengrab of Citizen app and arcgis website

Screengrab of Citizen app and arcgis website | Special arrangement

Motwani also mentioned another website, www.arcgis.com/apps, which is also commonly used by students in NYC. However, he highlighted that fear makes students reluctant to use such apps. 

"Emotionally, it affects these students because so many crimes get reported in almost every area that it feels like living in ignorance is better,” Motwani said. 

 “But what we have observed in NYC at least is that these deaths or crimes are not targeted; they are mostly for robbing/mugging purposes, or some individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol commit these,” Motwani added.

Resources and support services for student safety

When these students were asked whether they were aware of any resources, either on their respective college campuses or elsewhere, to aid students in staying safe, Ali emphasised the existence of security measures on campus, including patrols by campus police officers. 

She also cited the presence of local community groups, religious centres and awareness groups on social media.

Ali further informed that the university sends alert messages to all students in the event of a potential threat on campus.

Chohan also mentioned receiving NYU’s Campus Safety emails, which notify students of incidents or crimes in the vicinity, advising them to stay alert. She expressed reliance on the support system provided by the university, underscoring the role played by the network of friends and community spaces such as temples in providing additional support.

Motwani highlighted how there is a campus safety department present everywhere across the campus and that they even provide free rides during the night. He said that a helpline number is available for any assistance.

He further revealed that at Columbia University, if a student studies until late at night in the library, a campus car drops them home for free of cost.

Kaushik Arcot, a first-year post-graduate student of computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology, highlighted the presence of a police station on campus and frequent patrols by officers. He highlights the importance of a mobile app called LiveSafe for reporting incidents. 

When asked about their perceptions of the effectiveness of support services available to Indian students facing difficulties in the U.S., Ali highlighted her confidence in the support structure while emphasising the significance of being prepared for unexpected events.

However, Motwani, expressed a lack of specific support systems for Indian students, relying instead on the broader community and public resources available to all. 

“Our support system is just our community and public resources, available to everyone, even after such crimes have been reported lately,” Motwani said.

He also mentioned concerns about cyberattacks and money-related scams in the U.S.

Shubhang Mehrotra, a recent graduate from Rochester Institute of Technology with a double BS in computer engineering and economics, relies upon on-campus public safety resources and avoids interactions with city police as an international student. He described campus security personnel as better-trained security guards and acknowledged the availability of mental health support groups.

However, Mehrotra echoed Motwani’s sentiment regarding the inadequate resources for international students.

Emotional effects of the recent tragedies

“It’s very sad when innocent people are killed, people who’ve come so far away from home for their studies. It reminds us that there are unsafe places in this country, and we have to take notice of our surroundings,” Arcot said.

Expressing a mix of anger and helplessness, Mehrotra stated, “To me personally, violence against minorities in the U.S. has always been present. I feel anger against it, and sometimes I even feel helpless. Most days, I try to not let it affect me too much. I can't say for others, but we have definitely mentioned these events among ourselves”. 

Indian officials address the issue

The Ministry of External Affairs condemned the deaths of Indian students in the United States, stating that the causes were multiple and that investigations into two recent cases are underway, with Indian authorities raising the issue with the appropriate authorities in the United States. MEA spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, addressed the weekly press briefing on Friday, highlighting the tragic deaths of Indian students in the US.

"Two of them passed away, while the deaths of both national students are under investigation. We have reached out to the consulates, and they have extended all possible help. Hopefully, we will come to know more about the reasons," Jaiswal said.

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