UCSC starts safety escort program in light of sexual assault


The university is providing vans ready to be dispatched anywhere on campus for students, faculty and visitors in need of a safety escort from 8 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. for the next several weeks, campus police Chief Nader Oweis said.

The university vans will pick up people on campus who call during those hours and then drop them off only within the campus' grounds, Oweis said.

The service will assist those who took a bus to campus or parked their car in a remote campus lot and have to walk a ways back after dark, Oweis said.

"The point is not to take away from the bus system or buddy support," Oweis said. "It's to give them a ride from point A to point B."

"(The vans) will pick them up directly from where they are at," Oweis said.

The university has its own campus bus system that runs to 2:45 a.m. and Monterey County's Monterey-Salinas Transit runs buses to the campus until midnight, Oweis said.

"We already have a very robust bus and transit system," Oweis said. "We're just trying to bridge that gap."

The new campus safety effort, done in conjunction with the university's housing department, is a temporary pilot program to assess whether there is enough participation to continue it, Oweis said.

Oweis said that Taser-type devices are illegal to carry on campus while pepper spray canisters of less than 2.5 ounces are permitted for use in self-defense situations only.

The campus has an alert system, CruzAlert, that sends notifications of emergencies by text and logins may be obtained at cruzalert.ucsc.edu, Oweis said.

The college's administration held a public forum to discuss safety on the campus Wednesday night, a campus police dispatcher said.

Around noon on Sunday, a 21-year-old woman, who was not a student, was raped and beaten while walking in a wooded area of campus near the Upper Quarry Amphitheater and the Classroom Unit building, Oweis said

The suspect in the assault fled the scene, Oweis said.

On Feb. 11, a university student survived a shot in the head during a robbery at a bus stop off campus on Natural Bridges Drive in Santa Cruz, according to the Santa Cruz Police Department.

Two days later, two masked men armed with a rifle and a knife robbed a Food Bin store in Santa Cruz, during which one customer was kicked in the face, Santa Cruz police said.

The suspects are still at large in both incidents, Santa Cruz police said.

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