Campus Escort Service offers safe travel around campus

1/31/2008 - By: Natalie Savidge

University students, faculty and staff have a new-found interest in safety, and for protection and crime prevention information. After Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old Reno woman who attended college in California was abducted from a residence near the University on Jan. 20, the campus and surrounding areas have also wanted assurances that their neighborhoods are safe.

“This campus is a very safe campus,” said Monica Thompson, the ASUN escort services coordinator.

By calling (775) 742-6808, campus escorts provide a safe transportation alternative for people on campus after normal business hours.

Campus Escort Service was established in the early 1990s to provide safe, efficient, courteous and reliable escorts for University students, staff, faculty and visitors to their vehicles, residence, or any facility on campus or within a two-mile radius from the perimeter of the University campus.

“The ride is never too short,” Thompson said. “We don’t want to find out that somebody didn’t take the time to call or wait for our officers and then find out that something terrible happened.”

Campus Escort is staffed by paid student employees. These students, known as campus escort officers, are well-trained students who are uniformed but are unarmed and have no law enforcement authority. They have training in basic first aid, CPR, defensive tactics, safety training, communications training and have all successfully completed a vehicle operating safety course. In additional, they have undergone federal and state background checks and are required to file fingerprints. Escorts must be enrolled in six credits (undergraduate) or five credits (graduate) and have an undergraduate GPA of 2.0 or higher (3.0 GPA for graduate students).

These officers are easily recognized by their distinct uniforms, which include a white Campus Escort polo shirt and navy blue B.D.U. pants. Officers remain in radio contact at all times. Operational tools consist of a fleet of seven vehicles, log sheets for all activity, flashlights, automotive jump boxes, Nextel communication with University Police Services and a cellular phone.

The service employees 24 staff members; eight of them are women. Each officer is trained for the department’s three distinct positions: driver, navigator and dispatcher. A proposed walking escort program is set to go before the ASUN Senate soon. The walking escort program would provide walking escorts for those who live, or are parked, close to campus.

“Dispatchers are like air-traffic controllers,” Thompson said. “They need to be very familiar with the campus and surrounding areas, know the building names, how long it takes for a pick-up and drop-off and the habits of each particular driver.”

Thompson said that it takes about a semester of working as a driver and navigator before an officer feels comfortable and prepared enough to be a dispatcher.

The department has seven vehicles available for service, including five Dodge Caravans, one Chevy Caprice sedan and one Ford economy van with a seating capacity of 12. The Chevy Caprice is a former police cruiser that was donated to the department.

The Escort Service fields an average of 150 calls per night, servicing about 200 passengers and totaling 30,000 rides per academic school year; approximately 75 percent of riders are women. The heaviest call hours are between 7 and 9 p.m. Thompson said that these are typically the busiest hours because of late-night programming, sporting events, social gatherings, meetings, group activities and the dismissal of most evening classes.

From the end of fall semester 2007 on into the start of the spring semester 2008, the department has seen a slight increase of calls into the dispatch office.

Besides the apparent heightened safety awareness and self-protection reasons, other contributing factors to the increase are actually due to the cold and snowy winter — especially late evening storms and the new location of the Joe Crowley Student Union, which is further away from residence halls.

If a caller ever experiences a busy signal or answering machine, Thompson said to be patient and call back as soon as possible.

“We wish our multi-line phone system was ready yesterday, but it will be set up and operating soon,” Thompson said.

She also hopes that the Web site will be a more interactive tool in the near future, but is awaiting more funding for development.

University Police Services is available 24/7 by dialing Non-Emergency Dispatch at 334-2677 (COPS) and by asking for an officer to respond to your location for an escort. Call 911 or Police Services if you observe a suspicious person or situation.

University shuttle busses are also a quick and convenient way to get around campus. They operate from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm on Friday. The Sierra Spirit bus serves as a campus evening shuttle and gives rides for free with downtown routes until 9 p.m.

“Although people still think of this as a quiet town, a safe haven,” Thompson reminded, “downtown is part of our campus community, too, and you have to be vigilant and on guard.”

In addition to escort service, campus escort officers provide visual perimeter observation of the campus and nearby neighborhoods and are directed to report any suspicious activity to University Police Services.

“They are told to look for every puzzle piece, anything out of the ordinary,” Thompson said. “They can make the difference.”

The officers provide escort service approximately one hour past operating hours of the Joe Crowley Student Union. The service is available from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday and until 3 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. The service is not offered when the campus is closed for legal holidays.

The Campus Escort Service has an open door policy for inquiries, suggestions, comments, or complaints. You are welcome to drop by the office on the third floor of the Student Union or call (775) 784-6341.

The vision of the Campus Escort Service is to become the most well-known and utilized student-operated services on campus.

The department would like to become a model escort service and safe ride program and to provide for advancement of standards nationwide, hoping to be duplicated on other campuses around the country. By providing excellent and knowledgeable customer service, adhering to a high standard of safety, respecting one another and their patrons, and having fun, Thompson said they pledge to make the University a safer place.

“We try to do our best and enrich the lives of others,” Thompson said. “Our courtesy starts with a smile and ends with a safe arrival at the destination.”

Call 742-6808 to schedule a ride with the Campus Escort service.


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