By Saima Asad, March 14 2017 —
The University of Calgary’s Safewalk program has seen a steady decrease in use among students since its inception in 1995, according to the program’s recently-released annual report.
Safewalk is a program that allows students to call or email to request a volunteer to accompany them walking across campus. It is run by U of C campus security.
Safewalk director Alan Falukozi says while the program is often used by individuals who feel unsafe walking alone, it can also be used by those who just want some company.
“It’s not just for when you feel you’re in danger,” Falukozi said. “If you just want to walk somewhere, if you want some company, we want to promote that.”
The program completed over 800 walks in its inaugural year. But in 2015–16, that figure decreased to about 300. The current academic year is following suit, with less than 200 walks completed so far. Roughly 150 of those walks have been from one-time users. According to Falukozi, returning users account for a large part of Safewalk’s usage.
“The 22 people who used the program more than once accounted for 40 per cent of our walks,” he said.
In a report to Students’ Legislative Council on March 7, Falukozi stated that “nearly half of our years have produced a total number of walks within 10 per cent of one another. This, I feel, is the baseline we have established.”
Falukozi said he is not concerned with the decrease in use, as it might represent a growing sense of safety on campus.
“We aren’t concerned about it,” he said. “It’s more of a natural trend. We don’t feel like it’s a reflection on us, [but] more on a general campus culture. It’s not a sign that we’re doing something wrong. It’s more a sign that we need to adapt.”
Falukozi feels that increased smartphone use is a potential reason why Safewalk is being used less on campus. He says Safewalk does not currently have a plan to address this, but they are looking into developing a smartphone app in the future.
Other possible factors for Safewalk’s decreased use could be a lack of proper awareness and students’ reluctance to contact the program.
“I think a lot of people are aware of [Safewalk], but I don’t know how many people take it seriously,” Falukozi said.
Falukozi says he is happy with the program and the service it provides, but he would like to see more buy-in from the campus community.
Anyone wanting to request a free walk can call 403-220-5333 anytime or email email@example.com between 6:40 p.m. and 11:20 p.m. on weekdays.