USF’s SAFE Team to see shift in supervision

University officials are hoping to transfer the Student Government (SG)-funded SAFE Team to University Police’s (UP) jurisdiction by this summer.

There have been many complaints about SAFE Team, said Student Body President Juan Soltero. SAFE Team, founded in 1976, is a student-run, student-funded organization that patrols campus parking lots for illegal activities and provides students escorts via golf cart from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Past incidents last year include a student who was “run over” by a golf cart that broke his skateboard and a student who fell off a golf cart 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. “Now that, to me, is a big problem.”

By moving SAFE Team under the direction of UP, Soltero said employees would have to comply with the same requirements set for UP employees, which include background checks and a drug test.

Soltero said SAFE Team applicants are only required to undergo a brief interview before being hired, and the only requirement to be a member is availability.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think there’s a standard set,” Soltero said. “And that scares me.”

He said the SAFE Team management transfer would make the agency more efficient.

“You’d have direct supervision from campus safety or the police. You’d have better training,” Soltero said. “(It would be) supervised by professionals, which gives us more credibility.”

Discussion of the transfer began more than a year ago, said Tom Cisco, safety and compliance manager for Public Safety.

UP should supervise SAFE Team, Cisco said, but UP doesn’t have the funding “to take care of that.”

“Funding for the SAFE Team would have to come from somewhere and go through UP, so they could use that money to fund it,” he said. “That’s the big issue right there I think they’re dealing with.”

Soltero said that with the changes, SAFE Team would still be funded by SG, but UP would cover operation and management.

SG is looking to implement changes to SAFE Team during the summer to ensure a smooth transition, he said.

“If we’re going to be using student funds, then we should be running the agency to the best of our ability,” Soltero said. “I’m big on customer service, I’m big on efficiency, and I feel that the agency would better serve students if employees were properly trained.”

UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross said transferring SAFE Team to UP’s jurisdiction would enhance security around campus.

“They would have a better relationship with many of the officers out on the street and would be able to report things directly to our dispatch,” she said.

By working with UP officers, Ross said SAFE Team members would learn more about what to be suspicious of and when to report something.

Another challenge facing UP would be setting up a “chain of command” and determining to whom SAFE Team would report, Ross said.

“I can tell you right now … some of our management-level employees are juggling a lot of things,” she said. “So adding something else would be a bit of a challenge.”