SafeRide, other safety measures see new scrutiny after Graham disappearance

Sullivan announces additional van, students call for extended hours

Campus safety has received heightened attention in recent weeks following the disappearance of second-year College student Hannah Graham on Sept. 13.

As part of the University's response to these on-going concerns, it added a fourth van to its SafeRide operations — a free service launched in the 1980s through cooperation between Student Council and the University Police which offers students rides to their homes near Grounds when they might otherwise feel unsafe to walk.

University President Teresa Sullivan said the University would increase the number of SafeRide vans and SafeRide’s hours in an email message sent to the University community last Tuesday — though the administration later clarified the hours were not changing and a full update was sent to students on Friday.

“The email from the President referenced extended hours generally, but didn't state what those hours were,” Dean of Students Allen Groves said in an email. “Any students who checked the webpage for hours would have seen the correct ones.”

During the regular academic year, SafeRide operates between midnight and 7 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 2:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Students have expressed confusion with SafeRide’s hours and concern about the service's limited hours on the weekends, when there is greater need. First-year College student Tori Auerhan said she thought weekend hours should closer reflect weekday hours.

“I think it’s strange how they go from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays but only from 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. on weekends,” Auerhan said. “I think they should be extended from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. all days.”

Auerhan said she’d experienced “several instances” where she felt calling SafeRide would be her best option on a Thursday or Friday, only to find the service had not yet started.

Third-year College student Rachel Murphy, a Student Council Safety and Wellness Committee co-chair and student member of University’s Safety and General Security Committee, said she asked for clarification about the extended hours last Wednesday, but didn't hear back that no such extension was taking place until Friday.

Murphy said she and her committee have been advocating for the administration to expand SafeRide’s hours.

"We all know that the need for SafeRide starts way before 2:30 in the morning," Murphy said. "A large number of the users of SafeRide are people who have early morning athletic practices and early morning jobs."

Murphy said the Safety and Wellness Committee has consistently asked for faster response times.

"If you're in an unsafe situation, you do not have the luxury of waiting 20, 25 or 40 minutes," Murphy said.

In her email to the University community Friday, Sullivan also mentioned the University Transit System's Outer University Loop and Northline routes operate on extended service hours from Thursday through Saturday — from 12:30 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. She also outlined the "Charge-a-Ride" program the University has with Yellow Cab, wherein students can show a valid student ID and be charged to their student accounts for any ride through the taxi service.

Murphy said her committee also hoped the University would adopt the LiveSafe app instead of current app TipSoft, an app which allows users to submit tips to police anonymously through a phone application. Murphy said TipSoft is less user friendly than LiveSafe, which is used at Virginia Tech, Longwood and Virginia Commonwealth University.

"It allows users to submit anonymous tips and allows you to look at a map of your community and see where a lot tips have been submitted," Murphy said. "There is also a safe walk application, where you can allow a friend to follow you home virtually … [and a] one-push dial to get University police and you can also text University PD."

Murphy said the LiveSafe app allows student to look up robberies nearby or try to find alternative, safer routes home in high-reporting areas.

Groves said Sullivan had convened a committee to discuss safety issues, but it had not yet made or suggested any changes.

“A safety working group chaired by EVP/COO Pat Hogan and including representation from UPD, my office, the Provost's office, the medical center and students, will be considering ideas around safety, including possible changes to SafeRide,” Groves said in an email.

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