SAFE Team says new procedures increase safety

Transparency is the strongest proof SAFE Team has to ensure the organization lives up to its name, said director Nelson Ling.

The organization has added a GPS tracking system last year to its operating system that pinpoints the location of each SAFE Team golf cart on a computer screen, Ling said.

“We try to be as transparent as we can,” Ling said. “That is really the biggest set of proof that we can have (to show) that we are SAFE Team and not ‘unsafe team,’ as we have been called in the past.”

The system also registers each cart’s speed.

“(It tracks) where our teams are at, as well as that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Ling said.

SAFE Team, founded in 1976, is student-run and student-funded by Activity and Service Fees allotted by Student Government (SG).

SAFE Team patrols campus and escorts students from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. There are 54 SAFE Team employees, Ling said.

On average, SAFE Team runs 12 carts a night, with two employees per cart, said SAFE Team assistant director Brendan Pignataro. There are two dispatchers on duty every night, he said.

The agency receives an average of 300 calls per night compared to 150 last year, Pignataro said.

Student Body President Juan Soltero said in an Oct. 29 article that SAFE Team should be transferred to University Police’s jurisdiction, citing drug allegations and safety issues.

Soltero then clarified his statements in a letter to the editor to the Oracle on Nov. 2, saying he was wrong in his comments.

Even with the increased amount of riders, Pignataro said, no accidents have been reported against SAFE Team.

Students can report reckless SAFE Team drivers by calling the phone number on the back of each cart, Pignataro said.

Each cart has a letter written on the back so that a member who receives a call regarding reckless driving can identify the driver.

Soltero said a SAFE Team application and a brief interview are the only requirements before being hired.

However, Pignataro said employees must take a test on 10 radio codes used for reporting suspicious activity in addition to a Standard Operation Procedures test.

Once hired, employees are required to watch a safety cart video and must have a valid driver’s license, Ling said.

Multiple people review applications, Pignataro said.

SG director of Department of Student Services Ralph Reid said he makes the final decision on applications.

“I review applications for all the new employees they want to hire, and I say ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” Reid said. “As a cabinet member of the SG Executive Branch, I have direct oversight on who SAFE Team hires.”

Reid declined to comment on the discussion to transfer SAFE Team to UP.

“Everyone has personal opinions, but it’s one of the initiatives of the student body president and if that’s the direction we’re going to be going, I will make sure to follow through,” he said.

Additional reporting by Anastasia Dawson