A Friend When You’re in Need

Chaperone’s home screen

A Malibu woman is just weeks away from launching a new app she hopes will provide safety and peace of mind to scores of people. Although Melissa Shaffer does not come from a tech background, she’s used her connections from her human resources experience to develop her app called “Chaperone” that delivers the latest in GPS and monitoring technology to provide a virtual chaperone to anyone with a smart phone. 

Shaffer says she invented the app because she refuses to accept what she termed “daily limitations in our lives for the sake of personal safety.” She said people’s freedoms have been limited — women’s in particular — because they have been conditioned to not do certain things such as walking alone at night and jogging in desolate areas even during daylight. Shaffer said the list of “don’ts” is far too long for people to live freely and expressively.

Shaffer partnered with contacts in the tech industry to create innovations in preventative security. The personal safety app can provide live assistance in potentially dangerous situations and reduce emergency response time, ultimately saving lives. 

Because crime statistics involving women are so high — 78 rapes per hour in the U.S., one in five female students assaulted on college campuses and more than five million women stalked every year — Shaffer was motivated to make a difference. As a crime victim herself, Shaffer wants to spare other potential victims. 

The Malibu woman told a chilling story that happened to her nearly 20 years ago in San Diego. While showering alone in her apartment, the lights suddenly went off. Startled, she pulled back the shower curtain to find a masked and gloved man in her bathroom. 

“Luckily, I was not assaulted,” she said. Somehow she was able to chase the man out, but he has never been apprehended. She called the incident traumatic and said it left her with anxiety, chronic nightmares and panic attacks. In another incident, Shaffer was robbed while asleep in a guesthouse — the second time an intruder invaded her personal space.

Her app has four core features: Chaperone Me, Map Me, Check On Me and Hold My Hand. A college student walking alone on campus, for instance, might use hold My Hand. By pressing your thumb on the feature, a monitor at a dispatch center can remotely follow you. Entering a safe code will disable the app. If you are not safe it will set off an alarm, text and call. Then 911 responders can be dispatched. GPS can give a precise location and, because of a user profile, it enables police to have a brief description of the user and then perhaps respond faster.

When asked about the blue light system used on most college campuses, Shaffer responded, “to me that’s not realistic. You need time to get to that phone. Chaperone is always with you.” 

The app’s Check On Me feature could be ideal for online dating, Shaffer said. 

“We are conditioned to tell a friend where we’re going to be,” she said. “The app can check on you at a designated time. If you don’t respond, we will start an escalation process and ultimately dispatch emergency services if necessary. 

“You don’t have to rely on family and friends,” she added. “They can’t do anything. There are others apps out there in this competitive arena, but they all go back to family and friends. All that does is freak out and scare the heck out of your emergency contacts. We can save your life and we know exactly where you are.”

To Shaffer, it’s all about living life free of fear.

“I want peace of mind before something happens. Even at home, if I think I hear something I can connect with Chaperone and it will stay with me as I walk through the house and make sure it’s safe and secure,” she said. “If something does happen, we can respond faster. With a home security system you have to get to your keypad. Chaperone is at your fingertips.”

Chaperone Me is another key feature of the app. You swipe to connect to a dispatcher on the other end and stay connected for the duration you want. Audio and video can be recorded on and stored in the cloud in case it’s needed as evidence. 

“Ultimately, the goal is to make lives better,” Shaffer said. “I want to prevent people from being victims and give people confidence.”