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SAFE Team does little to enhance safety

SAFE Team, as it exists, provides only the illusion of safety at USF. Student Government (SG) plans to transfer the program to University Police’s (UP) jurisdiction – a move that is long overdue.

The SG-funded SAFE Team is a student-run organization that patrols campus and gives rides in golf carts from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. The drivers are supposed to enhance campus safety, but they are held to no real standards.

Applicants are only required to undergo a brief interview and must be available to work at night, said Student Body President Juan Soltero.

With such loose requirements, SAFE Team is only playing safe and, understandably, there have been a number of cases of misconduct over the years.

Incidents include a student being hit by a golf cart and another falling off because of reckless driving, Soltero said.

“A couple of years ago, there was an incident with SAFE Team where a number of employees were using drugs and distributing drugs through the agency,” he said.

Instead of escorting others, students at one point were pushing drugs.

SAFE Team was forced to undergo restructuring in 2007 after reports of golf carts taking students to fraternity house parties. Former SG Athletic Coordinator Gregory Morgan reported seeing at least one golf cart driving freshmen from orientation to a Beta Theta Pi party.

Every SAFE Team staff member was fired and forced to reapply, and nearly half were not rehired because of their conduct.

If SAFE Team is transferred to UP, applicants will undergo mandatory drug tests and background checks, Soltero said. These are measures that SG should have implemented years ago.

Because drivers are also supposed to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, putting them under UP jurisdiction might make crime response on campus run more smoothly. SAFE Team employees could also receive better training.

However, SG should not abandon the program completely and simply thrust its mess onto UP, which Tom Cisco, safety and compliance manager for Public Safety, said cannot fund the program on its own.

“Funding for the SAFE Team would have to come from somewhere and through UP,” he said.

If the program cannot be reformed, it will continue to be a waste of students’ money. It should be dismantled or have the misleading word “safe” taken out of its name.