Lauren Beck ’04 is an art major who spends several nights a week working at the studio until 2 or 3 a.m. When she finishes her work, she calls the Yale minibus, and within one to three minutes a “handi-van” arrives at the studio to escort her to her off-campus apartment. She said this makes her feel a lot safer than walking home alone at that time.
Beck is grateful for the service.
“Almost always, it’s the same driver, and we chat,” she said. “It’s a pleasant thing.”
At Yale, students have two options for safe nighttime transport. Some, like Beck, use the minibus, while others use 2-WALK, a one-on-one security escort service.
Both 2-WALK and the minibus are free for members of the Yale community.
The minibus service is available between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m., seven days a week. 2-WALK escorts are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As one anonymous 2-Walk dispatcher said, “Like Motel 6, we always leave the light on for you.”
A safe way to travel?
Jasper Howard said he has been a 2-WALK escort since November 2001. He works Thursday through Sunday and said the demand for escorts is lower during the week.
“On weekends, the tempo [of escort requests] is much faster,” he said.
Howard said there are usually two escorts on duty until 12:30 a.m. From 12:30 to 6:30 a.m., there is only one person on duty.
Though Howard’s priority is to escort students, he said, it is also his responsibility to help students who are locked out get back into their rooms.
2-WALK officers are only allowed to pick up and drop off students at Yale buildings, Howard said. They generally ride bicycles.
Officers are not allowed to carry weapons or mace to defend themselves. Even so, University Police Security Education Coordinator Susan Landino defended the safety of the program.
“Using the 2-WALK service is a secure way to travel about campus,” Landino said in an e-mail. “Security Programs dispatches security guards to walk students. These guards are not police officers so they do not carry weapons. However, the guards are all equipped with radios and the radio system allows communication with the police if a rapid response to a problem is required.”
Yale President Richard Levin also supported the program.
“The escort services work well,” he said, explaining that most violent incidents that do occur on campus happen when students are walking alone. He said that to the best of his knowledge, no student has been mugged while using the 2-WALK service.
Despite 2-WALK’s good track record, some officers expressed concern about the safety of the program.
Howard pointed to his uniform — black pants and a gray shirt with an embroidered badge.
“It’s really dangerous, if you ask me, even to walk around here with just this stuff,” Howard said. “If we were to get stuck up now, what good is my escort to you?”
Howard said the function of the escorts is to deter criminals, and he is not afraid to do his job.
“We’ve been blessed by the grace of God that nothing happened yet,” he said. Still, he added, “Anything can go down.”
Connor O’Rourke, lead security officer, said officers are not armed because their job is to observe and report.
Sometimes escorts also drive students home. An officer, who requested anonymity, said Yale is currently acquiring more vehicles for the service.
He said there has been a higher demand for escorts lately; he said he thinks people are “nerved up” about the recent shootings in the Washington, D.C. area.
Of people who call 2-WALK, this officer guessed two-thirds are women. He also said many freshmen use the service — some call just to be escorted across the street, for example from Calhoun College to Old Campus.
He said he does not mind taking such precautions.
“[We’d] rather be safe than sorry,” he said, “so it doesn’t bother us. It’s part of the job.”
He said he is “kind of, sort of” bothered that he is forbidden to carry mace.
“If [violence is] gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” he said. “Once something happens, [the rules] will change, but until then, it’ll be just like it is.”
He said he is paid about $12 per hour and estimates he walks about seven to 12 people home each weeknight he works.
Chloe Kitzinger ’06 said she called 2-WALK from Old Campus one Saturday night in September. She said the dispatcher told her the escort would arrive in about 20 minutes. Kitzinger waited inside the building for 15 minutes before going outside to meet the security officer who would walk her home. She said she waited inside for the officer because standing outside for so long would be “just as bad as walking back [to Swing Space] by myself.”
After waiting outside for 20 minutes in addition to the 15 minutes she spent inside, Kitzinger said she gave up on her escort and walked home with a friend. She has not used 2-WALK since, but said, “I’d try it again if I had to.”
Some students prefer to call the minibus if they need an escort.
Junior Bouge has been a minibus dispatcher for several months. He said popular minibus stops are at the medical school and around the intersection of Broadway and York. A popular time for pickups, he said, is between 5 and 7 a.m., when many Yale employees are on their way to work.
Escort services then and now
The 2-WALK service is fairly new to Yale; before the service was implemented by Yale Security Programs, students offered a similar escort service called the “Bulldog Patrol.”
Landino said the switch to a professional service was necessary.
“I have consulted colleagues who have been at the university longer than me,” Landino said in an e-mail. “They say that some 20 years ago there was a student patrol service that helped to escort other students — Unfortunately, the Bulldog Patrol was not consistent enough in its availability, so the escorting duties were switched to Security Programs.”
The minibus service has changed over time as well. Drivers no longer stop at restaurants and bars, though they used to do so. Bouge said drunk passengers used to vomit all over the bus. Now, if a passenger is drunk, Bouge said, the minibus driver is trained to inform the passenger that he is not allowed to use the service.
Students and staff alike can take advantage of the security that the escort services provide. They also have the opportunity to meet someone new, or chat with a now-familiar face.
Though she does not know his name, Beck often talks with the minibus driver who usually takes her home.
“He always tells me to take care and get more sleep,” Beck said. “It’s nice.”