I'm writing in response to Marion B. Gammill's and Jeannette Vargas' editorial (March 8 Crimson) which suggested that although Safety Walk is a good idea, it merely allows the University to shirk from the responsibility of providing the transportation Harvard-Radcliffe students expect for $20,000.
As far as I can tell, this has not been the case at all. Having both walked and dispatched for Safety Walk. I sincerely encourage members of the community to consider using the walking escort service, especially if they have a relatively short distance they might have otherwise walked alone, or if they are in a hurry and do not have time to wait for the driving escort.
The driving escort dispatchers do not refer calls to Safety Walk unless both dispatchers consider the distance to be manageable by foot. Safety Walk dispatchers also take into consideration whether we have a walking team nearby, and we almost always do.
Safety Walk provides members of the community two walking companions: a man and a woman. As a threesome, a Safety Walk group should discourage all but the most desperate of potential attackers. Safety Walk teams carry flashlights, whistles and, most importantly, walkie-talkies that can relay emergencies within seconds to the HUPD control center. Safety Walk volunteers are easily recognizable in their bright orange jackets, in addition to their prominently displayed Harvard IDs.
In addition to the safety offered by the walking escort, Safety Walk is fast, responding usually within 10 to 15 minutes. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., we have three teams moving around the campus. Teams are assigned to the River, the Yard and the Quad--they are always in the vicinity of callers. Dispatchers also try to keep this balance intact by, for example, sending the Quad team down to the Yard area if the Yard team begins walking someone to the Quad. From 2-4, only one team is available, but response time is still reasonable.
If neither safety nor response time is compromised, the only remaining reason for refusing the services of Safety Walk seems one of comfort. Since the inception of Safety Walk, the driving escort has logged significantly fewer requests for rides, but the slack has not been entirely taken up by Safety Walk. Perhaps some of the people no longer calling were those who used the driving escort as a free taxi service--some callers have responded to the driving escort dispatches with the following rejoinders: "I'm not wearing the right shoes," "I'm not wearing a coat," "I've had a long day" and "I've always gotten rides and I want that to continue." The Escort must prioritize, some members of the Harvard community need to travel from the Law School area to across the river; some students need to go from the Dudley Co-Ops to Mather. The major worry, shared by the Escort Service and Safety Walk, is that some individuals who would otherwise take rides are walking alone..
Please don't walk walk alone. That's our basic concern on this end: your safety when you need to be out at night. Danielle Do '94 Safety Walk Dispatcher