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Safewalk usage consistent

KATLYN SMITH | Friday, April 9, 2010

Despite recent reports of sexual assaults on campus, Safewalk, Notre Dame’s student-employed escort service, has not seen an increase in business, according to Safewalk supervisor Cappy Gagnon.

“We would always like students to use Safewalk more just because it’s a free service that we provide,” Gagnon said. “On the other hand, we’re pleased that the students have a high comfort level on the campus and don’t utilize us as much as we would like.”
Gagnon said the service averages two to three escorts a night.

During the academic year, Safewalk offers confidential escorts to and from anywhere on campus from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Safewalk employees are in radio contact with Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP), carry photo identification cards and wear a vest with lettering illuminated at night.

Dave Chapman, assistant director of NDSP, said four sexual offenses have been reported this academic year, one of which occurred in 2009. Last year, NDSP reported a total of two sexual offenses.

Chapman encouraged students to take precautions, including walking with friends, calling Safewalk or reporting suspicious behavior.

“We can’t be everywhere at all times so we have to depend on students here to be our ears and eyes and to help each other out,” Chapman said.

Chapman said students should contact NDSP with any information.

“One lead can change a whole case, and it may be something where someone thinks this isn’t going to do them any good, and it’s the best lead that we have, and it leads to the arrest of a person so we encourage people to call us for anything at all,” he said.
Last year, Chapman said a Notre Dame student reported an individual’s  “out-of-the-ordinary behavior.” Although the student doubted whether the information would be valuable, NDSP discovered that the individual had been trespassing following a ban from entering onto campus. The student’s tip led to the individual’s arrest, Chapman said.

Students can report information anonymously and to further prevent crime, sign up for a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class, a self-defense program taught by NDSP officers.
Chapman said RAD has become more popular, following campaigns by crime prevention officer Keri Kei Shibata.

“Now we are running classes every couple months, and they’re full, and we have to turn people away, and so we run them as often as we can,” Chapman said.

Overall, Chapman said students’ perceptions of safety on campus can interfere with taking safety precautions.

“When nothing happens to you while you are here, you get that mentality that nothing can happen to you, and that’s the kind of mentality that we want to discourage,” Chapman said. “Yes it can happen to you, and we don’t want it to happen to you but here’s what we can do to try to prevent that from happening to you.”