Campus Safewalk attracting more volunteers, clients

The SAITSA Campus Safewalk has increased in popularity at SAIT this fall, getting more clients and volunteers compared to last year.

Safewalk is a free service run by volunteers who go on patrols around campus and offer to escort students, staff and visitors within a 10-block radius of the campus.

“It’s better than last semester,” said Diana Rodriduez, co-ordinator of Safewalk.

“This year, people want to be more involved.”

The number of clients using Safewalk has doubled since last semester, going from 12 to 24.

There was also a noticeable increase to 30 volunteers this semester from the 21 volunteers last year. Around three-quarters of the new ones are first-year students.

“I’m really happy that every week there are more people who want to join,” Rodriguez said.

Equal numbers of men and women use the Safewalk service, with the volunteers having a similar gender ratio.

Safewalk can also be used for other purposes besides staying safe. For example, volunteers can help guide people who are unfamiliar with the campus.

In fact, Rodriduez said most people don’t use the program to protect themselves.

“It’s not usually because they’re afraid. Sometimes it’s because they’re confused.”

Holding the Fort: Diana Rodriduez, the Safewalk coordinator, sits at her desk inside the SAITSA main office at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Rodriduez has been the Safewalk coordinator since the start of the Fall 2016 semester. (Photo by Peter Shokeir/The Press)
Holding the Fort: Diana Rodriduez, the Safewalk coordinator, sits at her desk inside the SAITSA main office at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Rodriduez has been the Safewalk coordinator since the start of the fall 2016 semester. (Photo by Peter Shokeir/The Press)

Even though the number of clients has increased, Safewalk is still an under-utilized service. SAITSA  is working on an awareness campaign to spread the word.

“They might not do a lot of walks, but it’s still nice to have them here,” said Emma Warren, assistant manager of student experience for SAITSA.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to volunteer.”

Safewalk conducts four to five patrols every night, using a variety of routes designed to completely cover the campus.

There are usually six volunteers per shift, split into teams of three.

Two volunteers from each team physically walk around campus with radios, while the third stays at the SAITSA main office to act as a dispatcher.

These patrols are designed to help Campus Security and use the same radio frequency and passwords as security does, although volunteers do not have the authority to take action and only report what they see to security.

“We try to see if everything is okay, try to make sure SAIT is safe at night,” Rodriduez said.

Safewalk volunteers often don’t encounter any serious situations while patrolling the campus.

The only incident that Safewalk volunteers encountered last year was a minor skirmish between two young males, which the volunteers reported to security.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had any incidents this year,” Rodriduez said.

Safewalk programs are also available at Mount Royal and the University of Calgary.

The SAITSA Campus Safewalk has been around since 1992.

It’s not usually because they’re afraid. Sometimes it’s because they’re confused. – Diana Rodriduez

It operates Monday to Thursday between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Friday between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

During the hours when Safewalk is not operational, Campus Security can escort someone anywhere on campus.

“We are here to help everybody at night,” Rodriduez said.

About Peter Shokeir 5 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Peter Shokeir is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.