USC student uses campus safety app to report Uber driver behavior

A female USC student who said she was fondled by an Uber driver over the weekend used a campus safety app to alert authorities, who arrested him, school officials said.

The student received a ride from an Uber driver Saturday night and was dropped off in the University Park neighborhood near campus, said USC’s Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief David Carlisle. As she left his car, the driver grabbed her buttocks, he said she reported.

The student got out of his car and immediately notified campus authorities about the driver through the LiveSafe USC Trojan Mobile Safety app that she downloaded on her cellphone. The app allows students, staff and faculty to press a button to connect with police, who can track their whereabouts without the need of a conversation, Carlisle said. It works similarly to emergency blue light phones, which are seen on most university campuses and provide a 24-hour connection to police dispatchers.

Soon after the report was sent to dispatchers, campus police went to the student’s location while Los Angeles police officers searched the surrounding neighborhood for the driver.

LAPD officers found the driver, who was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery after he was positively identified by the student and a witness, Carlisle said.

He was later identified as 24-year-old Rodney Davis, who works for the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft.

Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said Davis had not given a ride since Nov. 15.

"He was immediately deactivated upon learning of his arrest,” she said.

An Uber spokeswoman said Davis was driving that night. The company immediately deactivated his account after learning about the incident and are assisting the LAPD in their investigation, she said.

"This type of behavior is unacceptable and against our code of conduct,” the Uber spokeswoman said.

This wasn’t the first time campus police have responded to an emergency request that came from the app, Carlisle said. Several thousand students, staff and faculty have downloaded the application, which was introduced last year.

Campus police dispatchers receive numerous tips from the app daily, he said.

Not all tips are about assaults, he said.

People will call for directions, to report illegal parking and report stolen belongings. In one incident, a student accidentally activated the app while out of state, he said. Police were preparing to reach out to out-of-state police when the student noticed the mistake and called them off.

Having the app is “one of the several things students can do to stay safe,” Carlisle said.

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