In an effort to discourage vehicle theft and vandalism, Student Government has introduced Safe Park this semester to aid University Police in preventing vehicular crimes.
However, this semester serves only as a trial run for the project, said SG senator Brandon Faza.
At the end of the semester, SG and UP will evaluate the efforts of Safe Park to determine if is was effective in deterring crime on campus, along with deciding if Safe Park should continue to be funded by SG.
Safe Park serves as an agency within the existing SG Safe Team agency. Safe Park was formed during the spring semester after Faza and a friend of his had their cars vandalized.
“We wanted to come up with an idea that would increase the safety on campus,” Faza said.
In order to start the program, SG allocated about $20,000, which covers expenditures for payroll for employees as well as operational and maintenance costs for golf carts, Faza said.
“We wouldn’t have spent $20,000 on it if we didn’t think it was going to be effective,” said Stavros Papandreou, SG Senate president. “The idea is that Safe Park will serve as a deterrent and alert people that we are out there watching.”
In addition to spending $20,000 for the project, SG also provided UP with $9,500 so it could purchase a second motorcycle. SG funded half of the cost, Faza said.
Sgt. Mike Purcell said a second motorcycle allows UP to be effective in patrolling residential/academic areas, reduce the response time to a call and provide better support for Safe Park.
“The idea is to get as many eyes out there as possible,” Purcell said.
The new motorcycle has allowed UP to have a motorcycle cop working seven days a week, whereas with only one, that was not possible.
Besides motorcycle cops supporting Safe Park, the Park will have one employee and one volunteer to patrol in golf carts in shifts during the day to certain parking lots and areas on campus, that, according to UP, have had the most crime reported. Yet both Faza and Papandreou said they have not gotten the response they wanted for obtaining volunteers.
“We are certainly in the need for volunteers,” Faza said. “We are starting to go into student organizations and the Greek community, who have to do community service hours, and give them an incentive of 1.5 service hours for every hour they volunteer for Safe Park in order to get the number of volunteers we were funded for.”
Papandreou said if the Park cannot get enough volunteers, SG may have to provide more money in order to hire another employee.
“Right now we only have one cart running instead of two, like we planned on,” Papandreou said. “It’s worth the extra money to get the program from 20 percent to 100 percent, along with having property saved.”
Purcell said UP has been working closely with SG, not only in obtaining a second motorcycle, but to help train the Safe Park employees.
“We have taught all Safe Park personnel what to look for, trends we have seen in the areas, and what to do if they see a theft or burglary,” Purcell said.
Purcell added that the purpose of UP’s involvement with Safe Park is to provide support in any way possible, from training to arriving at the scene of the crime.
Papandreou said the Safe Park employees are provided with cell phones that have pre-paid minutes, intended to be used only for calling UP if they see something unusual.
SG was originally going to purchase walkie-talkies, however, Papandreou said UP does not have enough people at dispatch during the day to keep up with the walkie talkies, so cell phones were a better choice.
Faza added that the reason the trial of Safe Park is starting in the fall is due to UP statistics that state that vehicular crime occurs more often during the fall than spring.
“In my experience, fall is busier in auto burglaries and theft because of the influx of the population with new students and new vehicles,” Purcell said. “USF then becomes an attractive target for thieves.”
Purcell added that SG was told of hard-hit areas on campus and what areas Safe Park employees should concentrate on. Some parking lots that Safe Park may patrol include the Sun Dome, Crescent Hill Garage, Engineering/Chemistry, the lot across from Magnolia Apartments and Mu parking lot. These parking lots had the most crime reported during the fall, according to UP’s statistics.
SG, along with UP, will compile statistics at the end of the semester to see if Safe Park was successful and whether it should continue to have funding.
“Constant communication between us and SG is going to be the key success for Safe Park,” Purcell said.