New van added to Nite Ride fleet, to fight sexual assaults - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New van added to Nite Ride fleet, to fight sexual assaults

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The University of Iowa debuted it's second Nite Ride van to it's fleet, as part of president Sally Mason's six-point plan to battle sexual assaults.

The 14-passenger vehicle will expand the university's Nite Ride service established in September 2007 in response to what police describe as serial gropings, happening near campus.

“Hopefully it'll increase our efficiency in getting service to the people that need it a little more quickly,” said Bill Searls, associate director of University of Iowa Department of Public Safety. “It's incredibly important to have this service for women and get them home safely.”

The new set of wheels are another weapon in the fight against sexual assaults. This academic year alone, there have been nine reported assaults on campus.

Adding the second van to Nite Ride were in talks about seven years ago, but university officials say the need wasn't there because ridership was low.

However, now there is a need.

“Two weeks ago, three weeks ago we saw 104 riders on a Monday night, which is unusual. So we've seen a pretty marked increase in ridership,” said Searls.

The Nite Ride program started with just Friday and Saturday night services, but since 2008 it runs on what's called academic routes, where services are offered seven days a week.

The new van costs about $55,000 and university officials are in talks of expanding the current route to better serve the women who use it.

Captain Loren Noska with University of Iowa Police says they’re excited for the opportunity to bring this second vehicle to the fleet.

“It's ready to roll we've had it for a couple of days, we've been able to put the graphics on it, install an camera system inside the vehicle,” said Noska.

The drivers of Nite Ride are members of the security force with the university's public safety department and have been gone through a driver training program.

The new vehicle will begin routes starting Friday night.

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