A collaborative effort between the University of Cincinnati Police Department, Student Safety Board and Safety Ambassadors is igniting conversation among students to promote safety resources on campus. The organizations set up a “safety table” in residence halls Wednesday and Thursday.
The purpose of the safety table is to educate students, faculty, staff and parents on UCPD’s activity and to ensure a safe environment on campus and within the surrounding community, said Dave Hoffman, UC crime prevention officer. The safety table is an extension of the ‘Be Smart. Be Safe’ initiative that UC is working on.
Michele Ralston, UCPD public information officer, created the safety table initiative. Ralston said the safety table has been successful thus far, and that she plans on using this year’s feedback to continue improving and implementing the program.
“Our objective is safety and to keep students safe,” Ralston said. “We have to educate them on the resources available to them and to encourage them to make smart decisions about their personal safety.”
Student representatives from UC’s Student Safety Board collaborated with UC Safety Ambassadors to conduct the safety table.
The interaction with students coming in and out of residence halls may make for a short conversation about safety, but it is getting a foot in the door to inform students, said Caitlin Denny, a fifth-year marketing student.
Denney serves as the Student Safety Board’s marketing director. She said the board’s involvement in the safety table includes sparking conversations with students.
Ralston — the new Student Safety Board advisor — said it was important for students to learn from their peers, such as the representatives from the board.
“I think it’s really a dual mission,” Ralston said. “Our mission is to keep the students safe, and their mission is also student safety. So, we can work together to make a bigger impact.”
The safety table reinforces the safety information that first-year students were provided at orientation, Hoffman said.
“Sometimes at orientation when they get this information for the first time it’s coupled with so many other things and it gets bogged down,” Hoffman said. “We just want to reinforce that a second time to get the information and resources to them.”
Launched in March of 2014, the UC Safety Ambassadors is managed by Michael Myers and provides an extra set of eyes and ears for UC police.
Safety Ambassadors are hired for their sociable personalities and customer service skills and train with UCPD to become familiar with the safety services UC provides.
Dressed in red and equipped with radios, Safety Ambassadors primarily patrol the south and east sides of campus, such as Short Vine and U-Square, Hoffman said.
Ambassadors provide services such as walking with students who are not comfortable walking alone and helping with directions.
“In the first three months we’ve had about 4,700 positive contacts, such as helping with directions, and 1,200-1,500 not so positive contacts, such as witnessing accidents and helping an intoxicated person find a ride home,” Myers said.
Safety Ambassadors patrol every day from 6 p.m. to 2:20 a.m. Five ambassadors patrol Sunday through Wednesday, while seven patrol Thursday through Saturday.
“We look at ourselves as a real friendly approach to serving the community,” Myers said. “We look for situations where we can help or be a blessing to people.”
Markita Coach, safety ambassador supervisor, said a lot of UC students are not aware of the ambassadors’ services, even though they have existed for six months.
“The safety table allows us to interact with people beforehand and get the message spread out a lot better,” Coach said. “I like being able to talk to people, to deter them from crimes and to help them have safe behavior in public.”
Students can call 513-446-2968 to contact an on-duty ambassador.
As UC’s crime prevention officer, Hoffman said he primarily communicates with students to inform them of general crime prevention and resources that public safety offers. Hoffman said he also coordinates with the Cincinnati Police Department regarding city safety measures.
This year UCPD is adding 24 police officers and 10 security officers to support the increase in student body enrollment, Hoffman said. UCPD is also working with Duke Energy to install street lighting in areas surrounding campus. There are 321 lights scheduled to be installed this year, compared to the 93 installed last year.
The LiveSafe mobile application is another free resource that students can download through Google Play and iTunes. Comprised of a texting feature and GPS tracking system, it connects users directly with UCPD and allows them to report crime tips anonymously, among other safety functions, such as the ability to UCPD’s emergency and non-emergency numbers through this application.
“It’s just another tool for the students to use,” Hoffman said. “We figure if we can put as many tools in their hands as possible, that helps us help them even more so.”
NightRide has also seen an increase in use. Three vans were added this fall, totaling the number of shuttles to eight. Hoffman estimated that over 10,000 students have utilized NightRide, which operates Sunday through Wednesday from 8 p.m. to midnight and Thursday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Students can contact NightRide by calling 556-RIDE.
The first safety table occurred Sept. 17, in Calhoun Hall. The safety table will be displayed in Daniels Hall Sept. 25; Dabney Hall Sept. 30; Morgens Hall Oct. 1; Turner and Schneider Halls Oct. 8; and Siddall Hall Oct. 9.