Virtual safe walk program launches at Laurier


By Meghan Grandy

Wilfrid Laurier University launched a new virtual version of its safe walk program this month after cancelling the program because of COVID-19.

The safe walk program, Foot Patrol, has introduced a tracking service to offer students safety while following COVID-19 community health guidelines.

“I like to describe it as a ‘Skip the Dishes’ tracking,” said Kate Tyson, Foot Patrol co-ordinator.

Students log onto the SafeHawk app and request a virtual walk. Just like how you would track a purchase on Skip the Dishes, an icon pops up that allows volunteers to track students as they walk to their destination. If volunteers notices that a student has changed their route, they call them to make sure they’re OK, said Tyson.

The service also features an emergency button on the SafeHawk app that will allow students to contact special constables if they feel unsafe.

Students on the Waterloo and Brantford campuses are excited about the new virtual service as many students have used Foot Patrol before the pandemic and found it helpful.

Emma Gunn is a volunteer in Brantford with Foot Patrol and has used the service herself.

“The first time I used it, it was because I was scared to walk alone at night. I was walking to the train station alone. So I called them and they walked me to the train station. I think it’s cool and it’s nice that they offered that service to students virtually.”

Lina Nguyen, a second-year business administration student on the Waterloo campus, has found Foot Patrol helpful and has used it many times.

“I was off-campus in an apartment that was around 10 minutes away and so during my first year I would use the service a lot because I actually would study on campus very late into the night. A lot of the time, my roommates would go home a bit earlier and so I found myself calling Foot Patrol and asking for a walk so that I could feel a bit better just to have a buddy to walk home with,” said Nguyen.

Another student who had a positive experience with Foot Patrol is Nicole Bass. She is a third-year kinesiology student on the Waterloo campus.

“Because I knew about it and I knew about what a great group, what a great crowd, it was and because I saw other people using it … I started using it after that and started telling first years about it when I was in second year,” said Bass.

Foot Patrol is volunteer based and run through the Students’ Union. It has been helpful for many students across campuses.

Since the university closed in March 2020, the virtual Foot Patrol service is a big step towards getting back to normal for students. But, it hasn’t been very active.

“I personally think just because of COVID, nobody is going anywhere anyway. So I feel like a lot of kids are not using it because they are not going anywhere but it is still nice to have that option,” said Gunn.

The service can only be accessed virtually between 6:30 pm and 12:30 am, Monday through Friday on the SafeHawk app.

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