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UW-Madison officials consider safe van rides for late-night studiers

UW-Madison officials consider safe van rides for late-night studiers

Safewalk

SAFEwalk workers escort an undergraduate student to a campus location at night. 

University of Wisconsin-Madison officials are considering instituting a late-night van service, or taking other steps to protect students walking on campus at night.

Dean of Students Lori Berquam and Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf discussed the possibility with members of Associated Students of Madison on Nov. 7.

Both supported the idea, the Badger Herald reported.

The examination of safe options for walking the campus at night was prompted by the brutal assault and attempted abduction of a student walking home from College Library in the early hours of Oct. 2.

Cutting back the library hours from 24 hours a day was considered after the attack, but the campus officials told ASM members they know students use the library around the clock.

“I don’t want people up studying at three in the morning. But they are, so we need to get them home safe,” Mangelsdorf said.

Mangelsdorf and Berquam called a late night van service from the library to the dorms, a “worthwhile investment,” the Herald reported.

Students also suggest free cab vouchers, or extended hours for SAFEwalk, a service that hires groups of students to escort others safely home.

UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said Friday that officials are considering options.

“We are working with students to discuss other possible improvements (through conversations like the one at ASM) but don't yet have a timeline for any specific changes,” she said.

Demand for SAFEwalk services nearly tripled from the start of the semester, following the unusually violent Oct. 2 attack and a couple of previous incidents involving weapons, the Daily Cardinal reported.

Walk requests peak on nights “immediately following on-campus incidents,” Transportation Services Communications Specialist Carolyn Wolff told the Cardinal.

To accommodate the spike in requests, SAFEwalkers have increased their number of weekly shifts. Wolff said SAFEwalk is in the process of hiring more staff, and that they have not had issues responding to the increased number of walk requests.

A Monona man, who was on parole for a federal child pornography offense, has been charged in the Oct. 2 attack and another attempted abduction.

Marc Lovicott, director of communications for the UW-Madison Police Department, said these escorted walks are important, especially “in a time in which we hope people will be cognizant of their safety and their surroundings.”

SAFEwalk employees train with university police and are able to assist in a variety of situations, Wolff said. Each escort team carries a two-way radio that is able to act as a mobile emergency phone between UWPD and SAFEwalk dispatchers.

The department also offered other tips for safety on campus.

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