Amid increasing concerns and complaints from the community regarding the SafeRides program, the Georgetown University Police Department updated its LiveSafe app over the summer and changed its policies for the program to mandate drivers to accept all requests made by students and faculty.
To improve user experience, GUPD further integrated SafeRides and LiveSafe, which was created in September 2014 as a digital platform for GUPD to respond to campus safety concerns. With the new update, users can message GUPD while they are waiting for a SafeRide and check the location of their SafeRide vehicle.
GUPD Chief Jay Gruber worked with SafeRides staff in the past few months to ensure that the revamp occurred as smoothly as possible.
According to Gruber, this added functionality has made the app much more user-friendly.
“We’re getting an increasing number of people using the LiveSafe app. It’s very accurate, and I think that students are more comfortable texting back and forth,” Gruber said. “I look at all of the conversations between the end user and my dispatcher and really, they’re very cordial conversations.”
Gruber also said that the new policy of accepting all riders ensures that the SafeRide program is completely inclusive, though there has not been an increase in the number of riders.
“Anybody who calls will get a ride,” Gruber said.
Students have reacted positively to these changes to the program.
Since SafeRides was created 15 years ago, it has faced difficulties with poor response times.
Tatiana Shashou (MSB ’17) recalled an experience from her first year on campus, in which she found SafeRides to be inefficient. According to Shashou, each time she called SafeRides, the GUPD dispatcher either told her to take a bus or sent a driver who never showed up.
“I was out with my friends and it was dark and we didn’t want to walk home, Shashou said. “We called SafeRides and said that we were scared and asked if they could come get us, and they said ‘Oh no, here’s a bus you can take instead. … Though, I’ve heard that they’ve really upped their game.”’”
While accessibility issues have abated, SafeRides drivers, some of whom participate through the Georgetown University Student Association, have expressed discontent at some of the program’s practices.
Caroline James (COL ’16), a student driver for SafeRides, said that that the working conditions are poor and disorganized for drivers.
“They should know where the van is, full of gas, with a working radio. I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” James said. “The students have been working so hard to keep the SafeRides program going that they have been volunteering to drive. If students are going to volunteer to drive, then GUPD needs to do their part and have the vans ready to go on those nights.”
However, Ari Goldstein (COL ’18) said that all of his experiences with driving for SafeRides have been positive.
“I’ve driven it three times, and each of the times it’s been an awesome experience. I sign up with a friend and we show up and are guided through the process with GUPD. They show you how to get the radio and where to get the car and everything,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein also said that the program is an effective way to help members of the community feel safer.
“I’m really appreciative to Chief Gruber and everyone that makes this possible because when it’s dark and cold, a long walk can actually be dangerous,” Goldstein said. “SafeRides provides a real service to the Georgetown community and I’m glad that I can play a small [part] in that.”
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