Campus safety declines

Options for keeping students safe on campus are dwindling at PSU. The Campus Watch and SafeWalk are two programs designed to keep students safe on campus after dark. Though widely used, Campus Watch will suspend operation at the beginning of April.

Campus Watch is run through PSU’s Campus Public Safety office and provides escorts to students up to two blocks off campus. The SafeWalk program is overseen by the Women’s Union and provides escorts to students up to 15 minutes off campus. Campus Watch escorts are paid students, while SafeWalk participants are all volunteers.

The Campus Watch program will suspend operation after April 1st, near the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. The program runs from approximately September through April while the country is on Pacific Standard Time and daylight hours are limited. When clocks “spring ahead” on April 2, fewer students will be on campus after dark and require escort services.

Campus Watch is a zero-budgeted program. There is no set budget, which means that the program continues only if funding is available for the next year.

Though there is no guarantee that Campus Watch will continue, Sgt. Michael Soto with Campus Public Safety is cautiously optimistic that the escorts will be back next year. “I don’t want to venture a guess right now, but let’s just say that the university always seems to find a way to get the program to continue,” Soto said. “I hope it does continue.”

The number of escorts used this year helps determine if Campus Watch will receive funding for the next year, and this year has not been a bad one. “We’ve had worse years than this where the program continued,” Soto said, so it is very possible that Campus Watch will be back in September.

Campus Public Safety has been working with Student Development to look at merging the Campus Watch and SafeWalk programs into a more inclusive program. Both have been well-received by the community, and Soto says that many students feel reassured simply by the presence of Campus Watch escorts, even if they don’t utilize their services.

Campus Watch escorts are paid students who are trained not only to help protect students but also to observe the campus for possible trouble spots, assist in crowd control and help protect crime scenes. Escorts walk the campus in two-person teams, and the program has anywhere from one to three teams at any time. The Campus Watch program has been operating seasonally for the past fifteen years.

Currently, the SafeWalk program is not operational due to the lack of a coordinator.

Liv McClelland, co-coordinator of the Women’s Union, said that the position is still open for next year and they hope to fill it. “You really need two people to properly run the program – one to organize and one to recruit volunteers,” McClelland said. If you’re interested in applying for the position, stop by the Women’s Union in the Smith Center basement, room 28.

There will still be options available for students who want an extra measure of safety after dark. Campus Public Safety officers are available 24-hours-a-day year-round to walk students up to two blocks off campus. Students can simply call the Campus Public Safety office, and an available officer will be dispatched to escort them. Officers may not always be available on a moment’s notice, but their priority is keeping students safe on campus and an escort will eventually be found.

For more information about Campus Watch, or to request an escort after dark, contact the Campus Public Safety office at (503) 725-4407 or stop by the CPS building at the corner of Broadway and College Street. For more information on the SafeWalk program, contact the Women’s Union at (503) 725-5672 or stop by Smith Center, room 28.