Police expand safety services as campus grows
University police say they have expanded services — walking late-night librarians to parking lots and implementing a free mobile safety app — as the campus grows, and they hope to do more if they receive budget approval.
But some students and employees still don’t know those services exist, particularly the courtesy escorts who can accompany students, faculty and staff members to their cars, dorms or bus stops.
Sofia Medina, a communication senior, had not heard of the courtesy escorts but said she would use the service after her night class, which ends at 8:45 p.m. She takes RTVF 3307, Single Camera TV Production.
“Sometimes I park super far away, especially during the nighttime, and I think it could be dangerous,” Medina said in an interview Feb. 21. “By the time I get to my car, it’s 15 minutes later and there is nobody in the parking lot. It would definitely make me feel safer.”
That’s the whole point, police say.
“I don’t like for people to live in fear,” University Police Chief Ronald Davidson said in an interview Feb. 23. “Nobody should ever have to live like that.”
More than half of students at Texas A&M University-San Antonio — 57 percent — take at least one class that begins at 5 p.m. or later, according to the university’s Office of Institutional Research. But police escorts are not available only at night. Students, faculty, staff and even family members can request a courtesy escort 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the police department’s non-emergency number, 210-784-1900.
Growth warrants increase in safety services
Last year, police performed 73 courtesy escorts, according to an email from Marisa Borroel, police communication supervisor.
The service began five years ago. Davidson, who took the reins as chief in May 2013, said he has enhanced it by increasing police presence at the University Library.
Cavett McCrary, senior communications specialist, at A&M San Antonio, said services such as the library have extended hours now that the university is residential.
“With the influx of students living on campus, the hours of student services have been extended,” she said.
Esperanza Hall, which opened in fall 2017, houses 224 students, including four student employees, and two non-student staff members, according to Gina Cowart, vice president of branding and marketing-communications strategy at American Campus Communities, which owns and operates the residence hall.
The library is open until 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, according to its website. Other campus services that keep later hours are Houston Street Salads & Subs, which is open until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; the 210 Burger Co.; open 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Sunday; and River City Cafe, open for dinner 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 4:30-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, according to Luis Ahumada, chef manager. A computer lab next to the student lounge in CAB is open 24/7, McCrary said. The fitness center in CAB is open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Rebeka Delgado, library specialist III, said the campus police do a great job of ensuring staff members get to their cars safely.
“UPD actually tries to make an effort to come to the library closing. And they do try to escort us out every night,” Delgado said.
Delgado said she appreciates the police escort, and it does make her feel safer, but mostly doesn’t feel like she needs it.
“I think that to say I feel safer would mean to say that I don’t feel safe when they are not with me, and I don’t think I necessarily feel that way,” Delgado said. “They make me feel safer; yes. But do I feel unsafe without them? No.”
Even though Delgado said she doesn’t believe the escort is necessary for her, she does believe it is a good service to offer.
“They are very responsive and very quick,” Delgado said. “I think it’s a great service.”
Others say there still aren’t enough officers on campus at night.
Latanya Jones, a night student who has taken self-defense classes and has her concealed carry license, says she is not concerned with safety unless she is parked in Lot 3, farthest away from the main campus. She said her concern is getting jumped on the bridge and being dragged off. Jones recommends more bicycle police at night.
Davidson, the university’s police chief, said the campus has a minimum of two officers on patrol at all times — one in a patrol vehicle and one either on bike or on foot. He said he has requested at least one more patrol officer per year as part of a five-year plan.
“Our calls for service have already dramatically increased with the opening of the dorms and … the ever-growing campus population,” he said in an interview Tuesday, April 3.
Students serve as Jaguar Patrol
In addition to police officers, the university also has three students in the Jaguar Patrol, Davidson said. These part-time workers assist with door unlocks, courtesy escorts and parking citations. Davidson said he hopes to hire more. The Jaguar Patrol workers apply through the Office of Career Services. If hired, they receive a week of training before hitting the campus in yellow Jaguar Patrol shirts.
Jesus Guerra, a housekeeper at TAMUSA, was unaware that the police escort service was offered to staff.
“I didn’t know that I could ask them to walk me to my car,” Guerra said.
He said he has never felt unsafe on campus. Guerra said that it is not a service he would really use, but he lauded police for offering it.
“I think it is a good service. If they have the time to do it, that’s great.”
Five professors teaching evening and night classes in various departments were aware of the police escorts, but have never used them.
Curt Meyer, humanities and social sciences professor, has taught here since August 2016. He said he knows about the courtesy escorts but has not used them.
“Although my disability makes me physically vulnerable … I feel fairly safe on campus at night,” said Meyer, who uses a wheelchair. “With the students living in the dorm and extended cafeteria hours, more people tend to be active on campus later.”
Senior Mattie Padron said she refuses to register for any night classes, though she has taken them at Palo Alto College. She said the PAC campus felt ominous at night.
“It was always pretty empty at night and hardly any people in the night class I was in,” Padron said.
To stay safe on campus, students and others should remain alert and aware, police say.
University Police Chief Ronald Davidson offered these strategies:
- People wearing earbuds should keep at least one out of their ear to maintain awareness of surrounding noise.
- Always keep keys ready in hand when walking toward one’s vehicle or bus stop.
- Notice the blue phones on campus; they are solar powered and ready to use in an emergency.
- Don’t leave anything visible in the car. Even items that do not seem of value can be of value to someone else.
- After dark, walk in well-lit areas and apply the buddy system. Avoid walking alone.Jesus Guerra, a Texas A&M University-San Antonio housekeeper who works here at night, says he and his co-workers use the buddy system.
“We all go out as a team. We all go out together,” Guerra said.
Contributors to this story are Samuel Alaniz Jr., Karina Asher, Melyssa Barnes, S. Cantu, Laura Jordan, Stephanie Marquez, Aaron Mathis, Avery Morris, Asbel Ramos and Melissa Ramos. They are students in COMM 2311-002, an evening section of Media Writing.