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SAFE team undergoes change

Over the past couple of months, USF’s SAFE team has undergone changes that should make more students feel safer on campus.

Next semester, a cart for disabled students will be available.

“This new cart is more durable and has a thicker metal,” SAFE team director Anthony Valcarcel said.

Previously, because of liability and insurance purposes, SAFE team drivers were not allowed to assist anyone into the carts.

Drivers will be trained to use the new disability cart. SAFE team has had problems picking up disabled students in the past.

“We’ve have had one young woman call who is blind and a young man in a wheelchair,” Valcarcel said.

According to Valcarcel, the need for adequate patrolling around campus has been a huge issue. Valcarcel said in addition to picking up students, he requires employees to monitor all parking lots.

“We are more than a cab service,” Valcarcel said. “We’re supposed to provide security.”

According to Student Government Sen. Chirag Vijapura, SAFE team was given $272,089.28 in Activity and Service Fees for the 2006-2007 academic year.

Activity and Service Fees come from an $8.08 per credit hour fee as part of (this year’s) student’s tuition.

Valcarcel, a business marketing major with a concentration in advertising, became director of SAFE team on September 27. He was approached by SG Senate president Barclay Harless and student body president Frank Harrison and was asked if he would be interested in the job as director of SAFE team. They saw how successful he was at making changes in his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.

SAFE team now has about 40 employees, up from 18 when Valcarcel started working there, but he said they could still use more.

“We do need 52 people to operate successfully,” Valcarcel said.

According to Valcarcel, they also had problems with accountability. Employees broke SAFE team golf carts and failed to report the incidents.

Safe Team uses a total of fifteen to sixteen carts working carts, when they should have twenty, Valcarcel said. Of those fifteen, about 10 carts patrol the University simultaneously.

Before Valcarcel, SAFE team did not pick up random students. The student had to call first to get a ride. Vijapura said when he rode SAFE team, before Valcarcel became director, drivers were rude and wouldn’t pick him up unless he called first. “The number of random people we pick up has increased drastically,” Valcarcel said. “We have 30 to 80 random pickups a night.”

Employee and mechanical issues aside, Valcarcel said morale was one of the biggest problems facing SAFE team. Employees did not always want to come to work and were not working at their full potential, he said.

To bolster employee attitudes, Valcarcel said SAFE team has implemented incentives to push people to work harder and enjoy it more. One incentive is a gift card awarded to the employee of the month.

Donald Stopa, a dispatcher and cart driver who has been with SAFE team for almost four years, said he’s seen a change.

“With the new director’s staff, there’s been a positive impact on the morale,” Stopa said. “There’s better work ethic.”

SAFE team works alongside University Police, and Valcarcel said he’s been working more closely with them to keep tabs on suspicious activity.

“I’m actually working with UP to get a workshop for the dispatchers and drivers to help identify what it looks like when a car is being broken into or when a motorcycle is being stolen,” Valcarcel said.

SAFE team is also responsible for contacting the police department when something looks suspicious.

“We call the dispatcher and then they call UP and UP responds accordingly,” Stopa said.

Alert Cab is another feature SAFE team has to offer.

“They will pick you up from any alcoholic establishment and take you to the address on your driver’s license,” Valcarcel said. However, students must be at least twenty-one years old, have their keys with them, student ID, and a license with a Hillsborough address.

USF senior Stacey Baker said she felt the improvements to SAFE team will help students.

“I think the SAFE team concept is a really good idea, and anything to improve it would improve the safety of students on campus.”SAFE team operates seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. For SAFE team or Alert Cab, call 974-SAFE.