HESPERIA — Victor Valley Transit Authority recently launched "VVTA Watch," a mobile safety app that allows passengers to immediately report safety or security concerns using their mobile phones or tablets.

VVTA Board Member and Town of Apple Valley Council Member Barb Stanton introduced the concept of the app, VVTA officials said. 

“Passenger and driver safety is paramount to maintaining an effective transit system,” Stanton said. “We have a great track record for safety and security. The launch of VVTA Watch helps enhance that record and transit’s value to the community.”

The app enables crowd-sourced passenger reporting via the mobile smartphone app or text messaging, providing immediate situational awareness to the transit agency. It's available for download on Google Play Store for Android devices and Apple App Store (iTunes) for iOS devices.

With a click on the app, passengers may directly call 911, discretely call police, or discretely submit a report with an attached photo or video, an incident description, and the GPS location of the passenger, VVTA officials said. When taking a photo, the app automatically disables the camera flash to not draw attention. Passengers may also choose to submit a report anonymously.

Alternatively, passengers may submit a report by text message to 760-201-1440, which VVTA officials said may be useful for those who have standard mobile phones or those in rural areas that do not have an internet connection.

Once a report is initiated, two-way communication between the passenger and VVTA is established, enabling a dispatcher to request more detail about the situation or provide instruction to the passenger. The app allows passengers to report disruptive behavior, crime in progress, security or safety issue, as well as immediately threatening situations such as an assault or fighting.

VVTA can use the communication system to broadcast service alerts and BOLO (Be On the Look Out) alerts to passengers and staff. Other transit agencies using this mobile app have had great success locating persons of interest by broadcasting a BOLO to passengers, often including a photo along with the details, VVTA officials said.