By Sadie Slager
10 minutes make a difference for students walking home late at night.
Public Safety Sergeant Chris Mickens said the estimated 10-minute wait for SafeWalk workers to reach a student who is at any location around campus deters many from utilizing the program.
“The average is a 10-minute or less walk to get from the SafeWalk hub to where the student calls from,” he said. “But people don’t usually want to wait the 10 minutes it takes for the SafeWalk workers to get to them from the library, so they don’t call for a walk.”
Mickens said the SafeWalk program has improved over the past few years, as SafeWalk workers used to walk around campus instead of being stationed in a central location,” he said. “That became very cumbersome for the student workers because they had to be out and about for so long. Three years ago I put a station at the library and one by the Thomson store.”
Mickens said these locations were chosen because they are the most heavily traveled areas in the evenings, but now there is only one central SafeWalk station.
“It was hard to keep four people working both stations all the time, and numbers are a big part of being safe,” he said. “So we cut it to one station at the library.”
Although SafeWalk is stationed at the library and more than 90 percent of SafeWalks come from students leaving the library, Mickens said, students can call to get a SafeWalk from other areas on campus.
Mickens said there always have to be at least two students working at the SafeWalk station, because if there is only one worker, the safety element is lost.
“There’s a strict attendance policy because it’s counter-instructive to have only one person working, because then that person will walk back to the library alone,” he said.
Mickens said there have been no SafeWalk escorts yet in 2013. He said 134 students requested escorts in the 2011-2012 academic year, and 68 in the fall 2012 semester.
Mickens said if a student is off-campus and requests a ride, a Public Safety officer might be sent to pick them up if they feel unsafe or are alone.
“There needs to be an articulated safety concern,” he said. “If someone wants a convenience ride, I may do it if I’m not busy, just as a courtesy.”
Mickens said he would rather give a ride to someone who doesn’t truly have a safety concern than not help someone who asks for an escort.
“We don’t want the worst case scenario to happen, so we’d rather the bad judgment call be that we gave someone a ride when there wasn’t really a safety concern,” he said. “The ones that are hardest to judge are when students call at like 2:45 a.m. during the weekend.”
Junior Anne Frissora said she has never used the SafeWalk program because she doesn’t know enough about it.
“I do feel for the most part safe on campus, but I don’t feel as safe on the streets surrounding campus.”
Frissora said Spring Street and Park Avenue are example of areas where she sometimes feels unsafe.
“I definitely wouldn’t want to walk alone on those streets, especially at night,” she said.
Mickens said he hopes student start using SafeWalk more frequently and he is working on ways to make it more heavily advertised.
“We are looking for reasonable suggestions on how to get students to utilize the service more,” he said.
“We’ve thought of having maybe a raffle for people who are new to using the system and one for everyone who uses it.”
Mickens added that although Delaware is a safe place, anything could happen at any time and students should take the proper precautions of walking in groups of two or more at all times.