Hitching a late ride: SAFECATS escorts provide lifts home after hours



By Jarrod Thacker

Beckoned by a muffled transmission over his walkie-talkie, Cadet Tony Urbino responds to the crackling static that he’s on his way, and prepares to leave the warm confines of W.T. Young Library.

Urbino is a member of SAFECATS — Safe and Free Escort for Campus Area Travelling Students — an organization directed by the Flying Wildcats Booster Club and comprised of the UK Police Department, Student Government and the Air Force ROTC. The safety escort service accompanies UK students, on foot or via golf cart, during their travels on campus after hours.

The bane of the procrastinator or the overzealous scholar studying late, UK campus is like deep space at night: dark, cold and empty. Luckily for students, SAFECATS is there to assist.

Urbino ventures out on duty into the biting cold of a winter night, and maneuvers his cart along the vacated sidewalks across main campus, reaching Jewell Hall unaffected by the elements.

Jonesha Sowell, a secondary education freshman who uses the service three to four days a week, requested an escort from the North Campus dorm to Kirwan Tower.

Once the mission was completed, Urbino returned to the comforts of the library lobby where he is stationed during his downtime.

Cadets are not paid for the service individually, but instead the group receives income to put toward social functions.

A typical night, Urbino said, consists of an upperclassman working dispatch, taking calls and informing one of two on-duty cadets via walkie-talkie.

With a large population of Air Force cadets, escorts may have to work one shift a month.

The escorts are regularly briefed on safety concerns, such as golf cart procedure, to stay up to date, Urbino said.

SAFECATS members carry identification cards and wear yellow safety vests with “SAFECATS” printed on the back.

Many students approach cadets in the library throughout the night for the quick transportation aspect of the service.

Urbino was approached by Emily Greene, a freshman biology student, for an escort around 1 a.m.

She said she uses the service a lot, mostly for the convenience.

“The safety part is nice too, but I really like the convenience,” she said. “I’ve never really felt unsafe on campus, but it’s definitely more comfortable riding with someone.”

Cadet Jessica D’Ambrosio, the lead cadet over the program, said no one is turned away from the service, though in times of heavy use, those with safety concerns would get priority.

“We do have people who use the service just for quick transportation,” D’Ambrosio said in an email to the Kernel. “But we also do get people who use it for safety purposes.”

Students can arrange for an escort by calling the dispatch office at 859-257-SAFE 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, D’Ambrosio said.

The SAFECATS program stays in service regardless of weather conditions, except during university holidays or breaks. Get more information about the service here.