Students, GUPD express concerns about SafeRides system

October 2, 2014

Gavin Myers

Both students and the Georgetown University Police Department have recently expressed concerns over the operation of SafeRides, the free service offered to Georgetown students, staff, and faculty as a safe alternative to walking alone at night.

On the night of the Sept. 13 bias-related assault of a LGBTQ Georgetown student, Lexi Dever (COL ‘16) called SafeRides requesting an escort. (

“They said they weren’t going to send us a van and that we could wait at the corner of Prospect [St.] and Wisconsin [Ave.] for a shuttle bus,” Dever said. To assist the with the increased volume of SafeRides callers this semester, the University began offering a weekend shuttle service that operates in four separate loops—including Burleith, West Georgetown, and M St.—between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. But this was the first time Dever had heard about the auxiliary shuttle service and she was not provided with a timeframe or a physical description of the shuttle. 

Dever waited on the corner with her girlfriend for half an hour before giving up and walking home. Within the same time frame—between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.— several blocks away, a Georgetown student was assaulted on the basis of perceived sexuality.

“We knew [the assailant] ran away, we don’t know where he ran to,” said Dever. “Had he run towards me, I could’ve been assaulted next.”

“Safe Rides is definitely an area we can improve upon,” GUPD Chief Jay Gruber said. “We need a better customer service interface between dispatchers and those requesting rides.”

“Sunday through Wednesday, Georgetown University police dispatchers often answer the SafeRides line, and I think they do a really good job,” said Gruber. Students like Dever, however, report problems with the service during the weekend when contracted dispatchers are working.

On Saturday evening, Gruber held a meeting with contracted dispatchers to elucidate the value of the service to the campus community. “There’s a disconnect—[contracted dispatchers] really don’t get what SafeRides is all about, at least from my perspective,” Gruber said.

At the meeting, Secretary of Student Health and Safety Nora West (SFS ’15) demonstrated the importance of the service, even if the caller’s destination is a bar on M St. “That is still a student who feels unsafe. I was … making sure they understand the seriousness of a student calling even if it seems infantile,” West said.

In an attempt to cut down on potential confusion, West and Gruber also revealed that they were making efforts to include a SafeRides button on the LiveSafe app. 

Several students directly involved with the operation of the service have also expressed dissatisfaction. “SafeRides needs a major overhaul, and it is in the University’s interest to overhaul it,” Caroline James (COL ’16), who drives for the service, wrote in an email to the Voice.

“At the very least, the communication and protocol between GUPD and student drivers needs to be improved, which doesn’t seem like it would be terribly hard,” James wrote.

GUSA has been looking to address issues with the service as well. “I wouldn’t judge the legitimacy of anyone’s use of SafeRides, my concern is less with the amount of usage, but rather with the efficiency and effectiveness of the service, an ongoing project GUSA has looked to address,” wrote GUSA Speaker Sam Greco (SFS ’15) in an email to the Voice.

An anonymous feedback form has been posted on the GUSA website in which students are encouraged to express their issues with the SafeRides service. “In three weeks we’re going to sit down and evaluate all that feedback and talk about what that means going forward,” West said.

“Most students, in my experience, know that if you call the SafeRides number, they will send a van to pick you up,” Dever said. “That, clearly, is not true in all cases.”

At times, confusion results when students request the service to and from the same location covered by the shuttle routes. “You can always tell a student, hey, the shuttle service runs and that’s coming more quickly than SafeRides, but you can never deny them SafeRides,” West said.

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