As I made my way to the Campus Police headquarters, I was greeted by Dario Cervoni, the assistant manager of Campus Police Services at UTM. With a warm greeting, he walked me to his office to discuss the Walksafer program. His sincerity and unmistakable presence later reminded me of the qualities of the program itself.
Cervoni eagerly explained the details and motives of the Walksafer program. “Back in 1996, this was a project that was implemented [partly] by Student Services […] to provide an extra sense of safety and security for those people that are here in the evening [and] during the weekdays that want to have someone walk with them,” he said.
The program is mainly funded by Student Services, but Campus Police manages the organization, training, and facilitation.
Following my interview with Cervoni, I had the chance to go on a walk with two Walksafer employees. We met at the Meeting Place in Davis at 8 p.m.. Sukhpal Kaur, a fourth-year humanities student and an employee of two years with the program, and Kevin Liu, a second-year political science student on his second day of the job, accompanied me. They and other walkers always wear bright yellow vests with reflectors; they carry a flashlight, an employee cellphone, and a walkie-talkie directly connected to Campus Police. Walkers always work in pairs with one female and one male, and there are 10 walkers in the program so far.
We comfortably strolled through the Davis Building towards the Student Centre, walked around Deerfield Hall, and finished by passing through the Instructional Building to the library. I felt safer in the presence of two other UTM students, and it helped to know that they had a direct link to Campus Police. Though the campus was quiet and students were walking freely, the fear of unknown danger can be felt in the darker parts of campus, and you often feel more vulnerable when walking alone.
For those at UTM who walk through campus late at night, especially around the residences, the underground and outside parking lots, and the dark underground hallways of Davis, the Walksafer program can act as a convenient and friendly insurance for your own safety. Even if there’s no immediate danger around you, you still get peace of mind and comfort.
“If a predator would come out [and] there’s no place for a person to go, what are you going to do? You have to have Walksafer people, especially in later times at night,” said fourth-year psychology student Ridwan Baka.
The general feedback from UTM students is that it’s a necessary service; however, many find that access to it is lacking. Second-year political science student Mustapha Hashi held this opinion. “You don’t see it around anywhere,” he said. “It doesn’t say ‘Walksafer program—call this number.’ ”
“A lot of people […] hear about it because there’s posters, there’s tabling, there’s Campus Police who have been promoting, but people don’t know exactly how to use it,” said Kaur. “They don’t necessarily know what the phone number is.”
However, as Liu pointed out, calling is not the only way that you can use the service. You can simply flag a walker down and they will happily escort you.
I think the program has the potential to grow. It also pays the students who work in it, feeding even its funding back into the community. If we all had a friend as part of the program, it would become even more of a communal atmosphere.
That number, by the way, is 905-607-SAFE (7233). Students can also call Campus Police at 905-828-5200 or visit their office in Davis 3116.