The Lehigh University Police Department offers a walking escort service to students as an alternative to walking alone at night.
Students can call the escort service and a police officer will escort them to their destination. The escort service runs from dusk until 10 p.m. and resumes from 3 a.m. until dawn every day.
The service is rarely used because TRACS (Take a Ride Around Campus Safely) also runs around campus. Most people use TRACS because the escort service doesn’t run in conjunction with TRACS LUPD chief Edward Shupp said.
Because of the collection of the other services available, such as the EmergenSee app and TRACS, LUPD only receives an average of three calls each week for the escort service, Shupp said.
The TRACS vans run on a scheduled route around campus from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. TRACS can also transport students to off-campus neighborhoods.
Lehigh offers EmergenSee, a mobile app that streams high-quality video and audio directly to responders. The app allows users to communicate with the police via text and alerts the them to the user’s specific location, according to LUPD’s website. EmergenSee can also be used as a virtual escort, which allows the user to set a timer before, for example, walking home at night. If the timer stops before users have reached their destination, the app will alert LUPD.
LUPD responds to every notification from the EmergenSee app, even though there are sometimes accidental trips. Shupp said the dispatcher can, however, send a text message to the person who accidentally set off the app and make sure that everything is all right.
“We do get some accidental trips, but that’s part of the system,” Shupp said. “We expect that. We’d rather have an accidental trip than someone not load it on their phone.”
In 2014, the university installed new cameras in off-campus areas. Shupp said that LUPD and the Bethlehem Police Department obtained the cameras together and monitor surveillance footage in the area. In addition to camera and police surveillance, LUPD offers off-campus students the option to register their residences. LUPD provides additional police patrols for registered off-campus residences during holidays and scheduled breaks.
Michaela Ott, ‘20, once used LUPD’s walking escort service around 1 a.m. to get from Taylor Hall to her dorm in Lower Cents.
Once she called, LUPD went through the protocol of asking for her name, information and location. Ott said that an officer was there within five minutes to escort her back to her residence.
“Being a freshman, it can be a little scary to walk alone on the campus so late at night,” Ott said. “I really felt like I needed someone there.”
Echoing the infrequent use of the escort service, she said the officer who walked her home said in the more than ten years that he has been working at Lehigh, he’s escorted only five or six students through the LUPD walking escort service.
“Any safety application that you have is a great asset,” Shupp said. “People have to use them.”