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SAFE offers way to navigate campus at night

For two years, junior John Ryan has been working with SAFE Team, a group that hires individuals to patrol the University at night, offering a cautious, alternative way to get around campus and prevent burglary. Ryan believes the organization helps people avoid dangerous situations.

“From what I am told,” he said, “(SAFE Team) does help keep the crime down on campus, and I feel better knowing that we are out there.”

Last year on campus there were 174 reported cases of on-campus burglary, 359 reported cases of larceny/theft, 49 reported cases of car theft and 21 reported cases of aggravated assault. One of USF’s responses to the on-campus crime statistics is the SAFE Team.

“(The SAFE Team) is a service for all students,” said junior Connor Holmes, the interim director of payroll for the SAFE Team. “Students working here drive around in golf carts. After receiving a call around campus from a student asking for a ride, (a SAFE Team cart) will come and pick the person up from anywhere on campus.”

SAFE Team was founded at USF in 1976, the same year Ted Bundy murdered two members of a sorority at Florida State University. It was a preventative measure with the philosophy of safety in numbers. It originally started out with only seven volunteer members. They walked on foot as they escorted students around campus to make sure that no student ever had to walk on campus by his or herself.

In recent years the SAFE Team has grown and now has 60 employees and eight golf carts. They are easily spotted in their orange vests and SAFE Team T-shirts between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. The hours will extend to 3 a.m. as soon as they get their desired staff.

Funded by Student Government, SAFE Team received $285,670 this year, which is $26,164 more than last year. A large portion of this budget has been used to buy new golf carts and to hire more employees to handle the increased amount of students using the service. According to Elizabeth Barton, the SAFE Team interim director, the Team picks up an average of 140-160 students on school nights.

SAFE Team also works alongside the University Police and tries to help reduce the number of on-campus thefts and acts of vandalism.

“The SAFE Team provides a valuable service to the community,” UP spokesman Sgt. Mike Klingebiel said. “The University Police force can’t be everywhere. Having this service on campus gives us a second pair of eyes and helps us ensure safety on campus.”

Between picking up pedestrians and making their rounds, the SAFE Team patrols parking lots and reports suspicious activity. Sometimes UP will send out a description of a suspect it is tracking; however, the SAFE Team never directly intervenes.

“(If) the (SAFE Team members) see a car being broken into or something along those lines, they won’t approach the situation,” Holmes said. “They will call the base, and we contact UP, or they can contact the UP directly if they have a cell phone. We don’t actually get involved with things like that.”

Sometimes the tips from UP come in handy.

“One time when I was working, earlier in the night we had been given notice by the UP to be on the lookout for a gentleman who was possibly stealing bikes,” Ryan said. “It was around 2:45 in the morning that we actually saw him. As soon as we went to radio it into base, the UP surrounded Epsilon (where we saw him at).”