Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Senior Photographer

CUPD Lieutenant Rich Gourley speaks on the Blue Light Escort Service to the Cornell community at a town hall meeting Saturday.

April 24, 2016

Cornell Police Promotes Blue Light Escort Service

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Members of the Cornell University Police Department and the Cornell community urged improvements to Cornell’s Blue Light Escort service — a program that allows students to request chaperones to destinations on or near campus — at a town hall on Saturday.

The program’s greatest weakness is that it is underutilized, according to James Toomey ’16, Cornell Police Auxiliary. Toomey said underage students who are intoxicated fear escorts will report them for drinking and others are deterred by the program’s long response time — as escorts can sometimes take 15 to 20 minutes to reach their student, according to Toomey.

“In this context, it’s clear how many younger students would choose to walk home by themselves in circumstances that are not very safe rather than call for an escort,” he said.

However, escorts can only call for a medical evaluation if the student appears to be dangerously intoxicated and the Good Samaritan protocol typically protects these situations, Toomey said.

He added that the best way to address this issue is through public relations promotion.

“The department should under the motto: ‘Any person, any circumstance,’” Toomey said. “Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing, we’ll get you home safely.”

Students from Cayuga’s Watchers said they have ad­dressed similar misconceptions using publicity and collaboration with the Greek community.

“We’ve gotten the opportunity to an­swer questions where people have mis­­­con­ceptions, and that’s really had a positive impact,” said Lauren Clay ’17, a member of Cayuga’s Watchers.

The length of response time is important in ensuring that students use the blue light program, but will be more difficult to address, according to Toomey.

“People simply aren’t going to use the service if it doubles the amount of time it takes for them to get home,” he said.

One possible solution to this issue is guaranteeing a feasible response time that will still ensure that students are willing to use the service, he said.

“My guess is that anything over 10 minutes would be too long,” Toomey said, adding that making this a reality could prove difficult.

Escorts do not want to use vehicles to transport students, because CUPD doesn’t “want peo­­ple taking ad­­vantage of it as a free taxi service,” Toomey said. However, the service has considered implementing text messaging or an app that will allow students to schedule their escort in advance and gauge response time, according to Toomey.