The Georgetown University Student Association’s Safety and Sexual Assault policy team is re-examining ways to improve the SafeRides late-night security escort service for students.
In a joint effort with Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber, the Safety and Sexual Assault policy team hopes to improve the SafeRides service after complaints of prolonged wait times and to launch a service to track SafeRides vans similar to that of the ride-sharing app Uber.
So far, the team has pushed for an additional SafeRides van driven by a student guard and a new on-campus student guard escort service, through which student guards can walk or drive students on golf carts around campus.
Gruber said these changes can be seen on the campus-wide LiveSafe app.
“You would just use the LiveSafe app, and if you wanted to go from one point on campus to another — let’s say you want to go from [Lauinger Library] up to Darnall [Hall] — you just put those two locations in,” Gruber said. “The dispatch would see it’s an on-campus escort, and they would dispatch the student guard safety escort as opposed to a SafeRide van.”
As of now, SafeRides passengers wait on the sidewalk for their rides without any indication of when their driver will arrive.
GUSA Deputy Chief of Staff Nina Young (SFS ’19) said this system puts the user in an unsafe position as they are left alone, usually late at night, on the street.
Young plans to launch an initiative that would turn SafeRides into a free version of Uber via an update to the campus-wide LiveSafe App.
“This has to do with accessibility and affordability on campus,” she said. “SafeRides not only keeps students safer, but also gives students an alternative to using Uber, which plays into affordability. As far as accessibility goes, it gives students a much clearer way to contact SafeRides.”
Young said it is not unusual to wait up to 40 minutes for a SafeRides driver. Young said she once waited outside for over a half-hour in the rain for a SafeRides van due to lack of communication between her and her driver.
Emily Quatroche (COL ’19), who is a member of the SASS policy team pushing the initiative, said locating the driver is key to making students feel less worried at night.
“It’s so that you know where the SafeRide is, and the SafeRide knows where you are, so that makes you feel safer,” she said. “This way, safety can be less of a concern when students go out on the weekends.”
SafeRides are in much higher demand on weekends, which creates a delay for students, Gruber said.
“SafeRides is a very popular service, and people tend to use it a lot, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, or when there’s inclement weather. So sometimes there is a bit of a wait time and a backlog, so what is important to me is that students not wait outside when they’re waiting for their SafeRide van or vehicle,” he said.
The next phase for improving SafeRides is acquiring funding. Gruber said while GUPD could cover initial costs, a long-term funding plan is needed.
“I would find funding within the police department budget for the initial equipment cost,” Gruber said. “But then the monthly cost to keep the service on would need additional funding from outside the police department.”
Young believes student support will enable GUSA to gain the rest of the funding from the university’s administration.
“I think the best thing for this initiative would be to get student support in the potentiality of it. What we need is some sort of like support base to get the university to recognize it,” she said.