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Monday, November 29, 2021

Crime

UHPD increases escort services with additional golf carts


The University of Houston Police Department is working to improve student safety this semester by purchasing new, larger golf carts for security escorts on campus.

The four new carts, which can carry up to six people, were purchased in September, the beginning of the Police Department’s fiscal year, UHPD Lieutenant Bret Collier said. 

We try to prioritize purchases in a way that will directly benefit the University community,” Collier said.

The escort and crime prevention programs offer an increase in direct access and visibility of the security staff, Collier said.

“The demand for security escorts and other services has increased significantly over the last several years, so the department has been looking at a number of ways to provide these services more effectively to the people who need them,” Collier said. 

Police officers conducted 464 student escorts on campus in January, head of security for UHPD David De La Cruz said.

De La Cruz, who was promoted to head of security in 2015, has first-hand experience conducting escorts across campus and thinks the job is busy, but he said he enjoys being able to connect with students.

“As we’re walking or riding with a student, we want to build a rapport with them so that they feel comfortable coming to us when they need something,” De La Cruz said. “Building that kind of trust is key to working together with the campus community.”

Most escorts are conducted by security officers on bikes who are dispatched to walk with students, such as human development and family studies senior Kristina Cardenas, who has used the service several times.

I have never had to wait for more than five minutes for an officer to show up,” Cardenas said. “There was even an instance where I was walking across campus to my dorm at night, and a security officer passing by on a golf cart stopped and offered me a ride to where I was going. I’ve never had a bad experience with them.”

Though some students have been receptive to the security escort program, some still report issues with response times. History junior Ryan Valdez said that both times he and his girlfriend called to request an escort, they waited for over an hour.

Put off by these experiences, Valdez said he hasn’t requested the service since last year. However, he thinks the new carts are a step in the right direction and “students on this campus deserve to feel safe.”

Despite the wait time, architecture sophomore Kayla Armitage said she appreciates the service.

“I’ve called them a few times at night and in the early morning and such,” Armitage said. “Of course there was a good bit of waiting, but I’d rather wait than feel unsafe.”

De La Cruz said an average of 25 to 30 security officers are scattered across the campus each night on bike, cart and foot patrols, but the department is always looking to expand.

“Whether it be manpower, resources or vehicles, anything we can use to provide a safe environment is always helpful,” De La Cruz said.

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