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The Daily Tar Heel

The issue:  A student government program provides night owls with a pair of trained “SafeWalkers” to escort them home upon request. The program was designed to improve campus safety by keeping students from walking alone at night. Is this new initiative really needed?

All students have a right to feel safe on campus late at night.

It’s a common misconception that our campus is crime free; it sadly is not. Between 2006 and 2008, there were 23 forcible sex offenses and 24 aggravated assaults on campus, according to the 2009 campus security report. And the Department of Public Safety reported 319 larcenies in 2008 alone.

Though the program is still in its infancy, students walking home late at night clearly need the SafeWalk service.

Since the program began Jan. 11, SafeWalk has received an increasing number of calls — most of which occur when Davis Library closes. Just yesterday, eight students called in or used the online system to request walkers.

And it’s only the second week of school.

There has been overwhelming interest in participating in the program as well; a whopping 75 students applied for about 25 SafeWalker spots. And besides helping those who request its services, SafeWalk funding goes right back to where it came from; 96 percent of spending returns to these students who help operate the program.

While SafeWalkers cannot yet walk students to off-campus housing, they can take students to Greek houses and to the far edge of Granville. And the SafeWalk program plans on expanding service to more off-campus locations as soon as possible.

It’s a common misconception that SafeWalkers will not take drunk students home if they call and are in need. No student is turned down by the SafeWalk program simply because they are intoxicated. If a student is incapacitated because of alcohol, SafeWalkers will wait with intoxicated students for the P2P to arrive.

The genius of SafeWalk is that it fills gaps that traditional campus security measures don’t or simply can’t address.

The P2P is a great way for students to commute safely at night. However, it’s sometimes not the most effective method of transportation from central campus during the week.

For instance, there is no P2P stop for Cobb Residence Hall. A student needing to get from the Union to her room in Cobb may find herself waiting 20 minutes for the bus to take her two stops. But she would still need to walk through the dark backyard of Jackson Hall in order to reach her front door.

Student government and DPS have adopted measures to help students feel safe on campus. Rave Guardian is a global positioning device that can alert campus police. And more than 185 blue lights ensure students will have access to emergency services anywhere on campus.

But there is no better feeling than having someone walk you home.

Meredith Engelen is a senior political science and journalism major from Minneapolis, Minn. Contact Meredith at

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