Out with the ‘bad apples,’ in with a new SAFE Team

SAFE Team needs another dispatcher at a cost of about $10,000 a year to meet current demand for student escorts, SAFE Team Director Nick Frey told members of the SG Senate on Tuesday night during his confirmation hearing.

Frey – who was confirmed as the new SAFE Team director by senators Tuesday – said the volume of student calls for escorts has more than doubled since the spring semester. He attributed the increase to recent improvements in the reliability of SAFE Team, which SG’s Executive Branch shut down, charging Frey with revamping in mid-August, after evidence surfaced of payroll fraud and gross mismanagement by previous SAFE Team directors.

In September, Frey took over an organization poorly run by previous directors and has since managed to bring the student-fee-funded organization back to its previous levels of efficiency and service, said SG advisor David Armstrong. Over the summer, Armstrong approached the members of SG’s Executive Branch about shutting down SAFE Team after he received a slew of complaints about the conduct of the organization’s employees, including the use of golf carts to ferry freshmen to fraternity parties at the Beta Theta Pi house.

“Under his stewardship, SAFE Team has been reorganized to move forward,” Armstrong said after the meeting. “It was really about better management and accountability.”

When he took over as interim director in September, SAFE Team’s 60 to 70 employees, many of whom worked erratically or not at all, were running just one or two patrols a night, Frey said. Prior to Frey, Tony Valcarcel, a Beta Theta Pi fraternity member appointed by former student body President Frank Harrison, and Evan McClain had handled SAFE Team’s management.

“SAFE Team lacked structure, lost its ability to keep people organized,” Frey said to senators during the meeting. “When I took over, the rules and regulations had been so lax that the department was basically in shambles … we’ve since weeded out the bad apples.”

Now SAFE Team, which is funded with about $300,000 from SG annually, has about 48 employees and runs 6 to 10 patrols a night.

They handle about 150 calls for escort services on peak nights, up from around 60 during the spring semester, Frey said.

SAFE Team also conducts routine patrols of campus at night, casing parking lots, bike racks and other areas for potentially unlawful activity.

Frey said that in addition to an extra dispatcher, he wants to add three or four more employees to staff more patrols on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, SAFE Team’s peak nights for calls.

Keenan Arodak, a senator and head of SG’s Rules Committee, commended Frey for some of the business- and management-related improvements he had made, such as better record-keeping and training of SAFE Team employees, but said SAFE Team’s night patrols were still dysfunctional and too many SAFE Team employees slacked on the job.

“The customer satisfaction (from students) is still not there,” Arodak said. “You can throw as much money as possible at a problem … but until you can use all the resources you have now, there’s no reason to ask for more.”

David Guidi can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or oracleguidi@gmail.com.