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Originally published May 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 10, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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"Lot of work to do" for UW on campus-safety measures

Washington State University this fall will alert students to an emergency with e-mails and cellphone calls. So will the University of Washington...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington State University this fall will alert students to an emergency with e-mails and cellphone calls. So will the University of Washington, Tacoma, which also is linking the text warnings to indoor flat-screen panels, adding more emergency phones and installing hardware to lock down more buildings remotely.

But at the University of Washington in Seattle, officials are just starting to look into these measures, and are meeting about others, such as how they might revive a campus safety-escort program. The service, designed to give students an escort as they walk at night, already exists at schools throughout the country, including at least five in Washington state.

"The bottom line is, we've got a lot of work to do," said UW spokesman Norm Arkans.

This spring and summer, committees will be reviewing campus-safety policies, procedures, education efforts and resources — including exploring ways for the university to communicate rapidly, Arkans said. It now takes an hour to an hour and a half to e-mail the university's 80,000 student and staff accounts, Arkans added.

Some campuses in the state, such as WSU and Western Washington University, which is completing acquisition of a high-tech emergency-notification system, say they have been planning to improve security for months, while others, like the UW and its Tacoma branch campus, are updating their systems in response to last month's massacre at Virginia Tech.

Although the UW provides a shuttle service called Night Ride, which picks up students at specific campus locations five nights a week and drops them off within a mile of the university, parent Sara Goodstein wants the school to reinstitute a safety-escort program.

"It should be in place for everyone, not just the female students, but the male students," said Goodstein, a Gig Harbor resident whose daughter Emily started at UW this year. "I think if parents knew that this program [is no longer available], they'd be quite frankly very surprised by that, and very dismayed."

Goodstein, whose son is a senior at UW, said she is even more concerned because of the murder-suicide last month in which a UW employee was fatally shot at Gould Hall by her ex-boyfriend, who then shot himself. "In light of the recent tragedy — that building's two blocks from my daughter's dormitory — there needs to be more vigilance at the University of Washington."

"It was surprising when I came here that it wasn't something that was available at such a big school in an urban area," said Emily Goodstein, 19, adding that she was told at orientation to use the buddy system. "Usually, I try to plan ahead so I always have a friend with me, but if not I'm just out of luck, I guess."

The 2,300-student UW Tacoma, also a commuter campus, offers safety escorts — students and police officers — four nights a week. On top of that, campus police will walk students where they need to go 24 hours a day, all year long. The school, which sits on four city blocks and can remotely lock down three of its 11 buildings, received one report of serious violent crime in 2005, said Sgt. Darren Bailey, interim director of campus safety.

In contrast, the 40,000-student University of Washington, a campus of more than 200 buildings, received about 100 reports of serious violent crime in 2005.

The student-run University of Washington Campus Area Resident Escort Service (UWCARES) program began in the late 1980s but was eliminated two years ago because it was not cost-effective, said UW senior Sheridan Gray, chairman of the school's Services & Activities Fee Committee. The committee uses student fees to pay for programs not covered by tuition.

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In its last year of operation, the service cost about $75,000 and provided about 500 walks, Gray said.

The UW Police Department is researching ways to restart the safety-escort program by studying the program at the University of California, Los Angeles, as a possible model, said Assistant UW Police Chief Ray Wittmier. "We want people to feel safe and if that takes an escort service, then that's what we need to do."

In January, Western gave its campus police officers training in how to respond to a shooter. Acquiring new technology was just part of the process of the emergency-management committee, which is constantly looking at ways to improve the school's emergency response, said university spokesman Paul Cocke.

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or jhsu@seattletimes.com

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