A second sexual assault on the USF campus puts students' safety options front and center

TAMPA - Luz Fernandez and Susana Jimenez walk to the gym together every night on the University of South Florida campus.

They rely on the buddy system for safety.  They also rely on SAFE Team volunteers and intend to do so more often now that a second sexual assault has occurred on campus in less than three weeks.

"We stayed up studying in the library until like 1:30 a.m. and we called them and they come really quick like within five to ten minutes," said Jimenez.

SAFE Team is a student government run escort service available for free to USF students seven days a week.  All students have to do is call and volunteers will come get you.  The service is available between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.

"Wednesday, Thursday, Tuesday, those days in the middle of the week we can get over 100 escorts," explained Matthew Milton, director of SAFE Team.  "I myself have dispatched nights where we have 160."

Milton told ABC Action News since the first sexual assault the number of calls requesting escorts has increased.  He says students are talking about that attack and now want someone to walk them to their cars or back to their dorms following a night class.

"I've seen maybe during our peak nights maybe 10 to 20 more.  A lot of them coming from Kappa where the first attack did happen," Milton added.

Every night five golf carts are cruising around campus being manned by a two person team.  Volunteers can carry pepper spray and they are in contact with police.  Dispatchers also are tracking the carts via GPS.

"I'd recommend it," said Fernandez.  "We get picked up in five to fifteen minutes max."

SAFE Team also have a group of volunteers on foot who offer walking escorts every night.

Milton wants to remind students that if they are in immediate danger they need to call 911.  He says if a student is being followed they need to find a building they can go inside that is well lit. 

Anyone interested in scheduling an escort can call SAFE Team at 813.974.SAFE.

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