September 20, 2011

Blue Light Calls Spiked in August

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The use of the Blue Light Escort Service doubled during the month of August this year compared to last August. This may be due to an increase in publicity and awareness of the service, according to Cornell University Police Department Sgt. Steve Shirley, who manages the program.

The Blue Light Escort Service is provided by CUPD from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. during the academic year, excluding winter and spring breaks, to promote safety in and around campus at night.

From the beginning of Orientation Week to the end of August, the CUPD received 17 Blue Light Escort Calls, Shirley said.

While Shirley said that CUPD has not determined the exact factor behind the increase, he suggested increased marketing of the Blue Light System and heightened awareness about crime on campus as possible causes.

“I don’t think that the crime rate has increased on campus or around campus. I do think that people’s awareness has gone up,” Shirley said. “We’ve had things happen in and around campus that have folks looking at the security walk.”

Eva Drago ’12, a member of the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Board, agreed that the increased usage is probably a result of publicity and students’ increased awareness of both the service and safety issues.

“When you have a big social problem like [student safety], what’s going to happen at first is that more people are going to become aware of it, and it’s going to seem like there’s a huge increase in the problem when in reality it’s exactly the same,” Drago said. “As more people become aware and the community unites to address this issue, you’ll see a decrease in the problem.”

About 90 percent of the calls to the Blue Light Escort Service occur after midnight when students are walking home late from the libraries, Shirley said.

Shirley said he is unsure about whether the number of people using the service continued to rise, as CUPD does not yet have the statistics for September yet.

“They may fall. When the weather goes, people don’t like to be walking around,” Shirley said.

In a poll conducted two years ago, Student Assembly President Natalie Raps ’12 found that 52 percent of student respondents said they felt “semi-comfortable” with asking CUPD for escort assitance, 36 percent reported they did not feel comfortable and 13 percent indicated they felt very comfortable with the idea.

Raps said that the increased Blue Light usage shows that while the weather remains warm and people are willing to walk home, the student population needs a safe way to get home.

Drago said she believes that the service is still not used as much as it could be.

She said she suspects that the Blue Light service has not been as successful as it could be because students do not want to wait for police axillary members to meet them.

But Drago added that it is difficult to determine why the Blue Light Escort Service is an underused system.

“I think there’s kind of a stigma attached to using the blue light system, and we’re working to figure out how to redesign the system to be more approachable,” Drago said.

Original Author: Jesella Zambrano