There’s no denying that Penn’s location in West Philadelphia isn’t the safest. As students, we sometimes get notifications about places to stay away from due to crime, violence, or other dangers.
Yet, it’s important to remember that Penn gives us some tools to be safe, one of which is Penn Walk.
Penn Walk is an escort service that is available 24/7 between 30th Street and 43rd Street, from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue, as well as every day from 10:00am to 3:00am between 30th and 50th, from Spring Garden Street to Woodland Avenue. Students can be walked by a uniformed Allied Universal Public Safety Officer to any campus location, their parked cars, Penn Transit, or on-campus SEPTA stops.
Students can use the escort service by asking any Public Safety Officer on patrol or inside a building, by calling 215-898-WALK(9255) or 511 on a campus phone, or by using a blue-light e-phone on campus.
Even though security officers are unarmed and can neither arrest nor investigate, they are in direct radio communication with the PennComm emergency dispatching center. Additionally, they are trained to prevent and deter criminal activity and should therefore be the go-to alternative to walking alone or uncomfortably in West Philadelphia.
When looking at some of Penn’s safety initiatives, it’s easy to think that these initiatives only apply when students are in danger, and that they are only necessary if students are concerned for their safety. However, Penn students should not hesitate to use Penn Walk for reasons as simple as it is late and dark, they are lost, or they would like company.
There is no prize for feeling totally comfortable walking around or near campus alone late at night. Even if you have Mace pepper spray and know taekwondo, or you just think you have nothing to worry about, having a security officer with you simply makes you safer.
A major concern students may have is that, if they call Penn Walk when they are off-campus for a party and want to return to campus late at night, the security guard will “MERT” them and whomever else they see.
In regard to students keeping themselves from being “MERTed,” if they are so noticeably drunk that the security guard would be able to tell, that is all the more reason why they should not walk alone. To avoid the possibility of a student’s Penn Walk security officer “MERTing” another student they happen to see, students should simply refrain from calling Penn Walk directly outside the place that they or other people are drinking in and just walk a little down the street or to a recognizable location. MERT should especially not deter students from using Penn Walk now that it is free, and in general it should not be something that students should try to dodge.
Students may also think that using Penn Walk will cause others to look at them weirdly or assume that they cannot protect themselves. However, if we can get rid of any sort of stigma associated with walking with security officers, Penn’s campus would not only be safer, but more accepting. To change this, we should all just get in the habit of calling Penn Walk instead of walking home alone late at night. We can’t forget that they’re here for us.
ILYSE REISMAN is a College sophomore from Millburn, N.J. studying English and Music. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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