Easy to spot in their signature green vests, you may have seen them patrolling the Park Blocks after dark, perhaps mistaking them for canvassers. But donations are not what they’re after. The Campus Watch escorts are on campus to accompany people to their cars, find lost items and sometimes just to be a friendly face.
Jon Livingston and Christian Daquilante are honest about why they applied to be Campus Watch escorts, and it was not just to serve as the extra eyes and ears for Campus Public Safety.
"I get financial aid, but it’s not enough," Livingston said. "We needed money for school, and this pays pretty well."
Livingston, a business accounting major, and Daquilante, an English major, are both 18-year-old freshmen roommates at the Ondine. For Livingston, who grew up in the foster care system, the job provides a necessary supplemental income to his financial aid.
Daquilante is the second of four children and must foot his entire college bill on his own, and his 15 hours a week working for Campus Watch helps him do so.
The Campus Watch escort program consists today of six paid students who work Monday through Thursday from 6 -11 p.m. Anyone on campus who wants an escort can call Campus Public Safety. Community members, students, faculty and staff members can utilize the service, which covers the campus from Southwest Market and 4th streets and from 13th Street to Highway 405, as well as two blocks off campus.
Aside from financial security, Livingston said one of the best parts of the job is that people on campus seem to appreciate their services. "Random people come up and say, ‘Oh, you’re doing such a great job,’" he said.
There is no average person who asks for an escort off campus, Livingston and Daquilante says. Mostly, the people who utilize the service just seem to enjoy the peace of mind.
"Most of the time, people would rather not be alone at 10 or 11 at night," Daquilante says.
While campus safety officers are available 24 hours a day year round, the student escorts work from late fall to early spring, the times of year when more students feel the need for escorts, according to Lt. Craig Whitten of Campus Public Safety.
"[Calls for an escort] coincide with when it’s darkest," he said.
The Campus Watch program began in 1983 to compliment the student government SafeWalk program. SafeWalk began earlier in the 1980s and offered escorts for up to a distance of 15 minutes off campus. The program was fledgling, according to Director of Campus Public Safety Mike Soto, and ASPSU sought sponsorship. Campus Public Safety was happy to oblige.
"I saw that it was a good program that needed redirection," Soto said.
Soto designed the Campus Watch after the University of Michigan’s successful program of the same name. Originally, the escort teams were to consist of one male and one female, but the program currently has three teams of six male employees. The male/female partnerships are strived for because, Soto said, the dynamic helps users of the escort service feel more comfortable.
"It’s a good tool to gain trust," Soto said.
The student escorts receive 20 hours of initial classroom training, which include topics such as how to observe, report and how to recognize suspicious activity. Escorts are used in non-threatening situations, but real officers are used when a situation is potentially dangerous.
"If we have a potential for a threat, [community members] will be escorted by an officer," Soto said.
This term, the program is receiving an average of three escorts per night, down from winter term, which Whitten says is usually the busiest.
He also attributes the lower call volume to improved lighting in the Park Blocks. Regardless of low call volume this term, Soto and Whitten believe in the importance of this program.
"The Campus Watch program is good for the community," Soto said, "People know that we care and we are ultimately there to be of service."