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Volume 68, Issue 56, Tuesday, November 12, 2002

News
 

Escort service lacks manpower

By Ray Hafner
Senior Staff Writer

Students needing a nighttime escort to their car could find themselves out on their own. The limited number of employees working for UHPD's Cougar Patrol means escort service can't be guaranteed promptly, officials say.

The shortage has some students opting to walk to their cars late at night, rather than wait for the first available patrol car.

"Our manpower is limited. There's no question about that," said UH Police Department dispatcher George Adams.


The UH Police Department bought two new environmentally friendly cars for Cougar Patrol this summer, but doesn't have enough staff to meet student demand for its services.
Lorrie Novosad/
The Daily Cougar

Cougar Patrol was created more than 10 years ago as a way of adding "eyes and ears" to the UH campus. The UHPD Web site describes it as the "backbone of our escort service."

Students in need of an escort are encouraged to call 3-3333 from any campus phone to arrange a ride.

Only about 15 students work for Cougar Patrol, though, said UHPD Lt. Roger Byars, and some of those are assigned specifically to colleges seeking extra security.

SGA President Dawona Miller had just finished work in her office at 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night when she tried to use the escort service. Miller said the dispatcher told her it would be a long wait and she might "be better off walking."

Miller learned of the escort service last year after an assault at the Moody Towers Breezeway spurred staff to alert students to the service. 

The message, Miller said, was to not go anywhere on campus alone at night; and if you have to, use Cougar Patrol.

The night Miller called, no one was working for Cougar Patrol. Adams said the next available officer would have driven her if she had waited.

Byars said that it is "difficult" to find students to work at all hours and "we can't guarantee time of arrival from call to call."

Cougar Patrol fills its schedule based on student availability, so not all the possible shifts are filled. There is no set schedule, and on some nights, students stop working as early as 9 p.m. Byars said they could use people until 1 a.m.

He said they are always looking to hire new part-time employees. Candidates must be UH students, have a current Texas driver's license and be able to pass a background check.

Byars did not know how many students utilized the service but said the numbers have been decreasing in part, he said, because they have encouraged students to use the campus shuttle buses.

Miller had another idea why.

Because of the problem, if you get bad service, "The next time you have to call them you're not too amped about calling," she said.

UHPD just bought two "Think Neighbors," a type of electric patrol car used primarily by Cougar Patrol. Each cost $7,500, according to a University newsletter.

Byars said Cougar Patrol acts as more than just an escort service, because its staff members provide vehicle assistance and are out in the field with a direct radio contact to police.

Miller said she was "completely upset" over her call to Cougar Patrol and raised the issue at the Oct. 30 Student Government Association meeting. She has also scheduled a meeting with UHPD Chief Robert Wilson for Thursday and hopes to discuss possible changes to the program.

 Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

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