SAFE Team increases walking teams

Kaila Kelly, a sophomore majoring in physics, travels from the Library to the Marshall Student Center (MSC) every night.

For safety’s sake, she never goes alone. She calls SAFE Team, an after-dark, student-run escort service started by Student Government (SG) in 1977, every night.

“I feel more secure when I use SAFE Team,” she said. “It is terrifying to walk around campus at night as a girl.”

Yet, the neon-vested students who frequently shuttle pedestrians on golf carts will soon be substituting some of their vehicle routes for a more environmentally-friendly option – walking teams.

This semester SAFE Team has started supplementing their five golf carts with 10 teams of two walkers to accompany students for short distances. SAFE Team Director Scott Nee said 8-10 new employees will be hired for the general field staff to expand walking teams, which will ultimately save energy and increase efficiency.

Now, students will be assigned a walking team or a golf cart based on their location, Nee said.

“If the request for SAFE Team comes from farther than the center of campus, the dispatcher will send a golf cart to that location,” he said. “Walking escorts primarily work in priority zones; these are well-lit areas on campus with a lot of foot traffic.”

Francisco Ojeda, a senior majoring in psychology and a SAFE Team employee, said the increase of walking teams, has led to an increase in legitimate calls rather than people calling because they are “lazy.”

“(Before), one person literally called (SAFE Team) five times in the span of two hours,” he said. “We had one guy actually disguise his voice as a girl because he knew that we knew he would be using SAFE Team.”

Another student, Ojeda said, used SAFE Team to take him to and from ON50 Apartments and the Andros dining hall for dinner every day this semester.

SAFE Team has featured walking teams since it first started, Nee said, and currently deploys 10 teams each night. Walkers usually end their duties earlier in the night, saving cart use for after 11:30 p.m until the service ends at 2:30 a.m.

Though knowing that she will no longer be escorted to the MSC in a golf cart makes her “a little more nervous,” Kelly said she will probably continue to use SAFE Team at night.

Since University Police took control of SAFE Team last year, Nee said all employees have had proactive crime prevention training. All employees are advised to avoid situations that would require self-defense, Nee said.

“(SAFE Team) provides a deal for people who are in small numbers who do not feel safe in areas of campus where they would not want to be alone and they do not have friends available,” he said. “We’re a resource for them. We’re not necessarily an automatic go to service to get you around campus.”