SHOUT program aims to keep Iowa students safe at night - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SHOUT program aims to keep Iowa students safe at night

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

A new safety program is helping keep college students safe while relieving some work on police.

Select students at the University of Iowa are trained as late-night student ambassadors in the "SHOUT" or "Students Helping OUT" program through the university's Department of Public Safety. The program trains students to patrol downtown areas during late and busy nights to look for people who may be in need of help and to help get them home safely. 

Students underwent a two-week training period with the Iowa City Police Department.

Many of the students involved in the program also work as campus security guards such as Rajat Tyagi and Daisy Torres, who were on duty Thursday night. Tyagi and Torres took to walking while two other students patrolled in a vehicle.

"We're looking for people that might need help getting home, people that might be separated from their group of friends, so we can help them get a ride home or get back together with their group," Tyagi said.

Scott Beckner, the University of Iowa's Director of Public Safety, said this prevents people from becoming victims.

"When we look at how somebody becomes a victim, we notice that they get separated from their group," Beckner said.

The idea is to provide students with another resource to be able to ask for help without having to go to police. 

"Students, there's just that barrier that they don't want to approach the police. They always think, well now they're going to have to write a report or be a witness. Here, it's just students and it's not crime-related. It's just helping students get home safely," Beckner said.

Tyagi said while some people think patrolling is a means to get people in trouble, he said they're only trying to keep students safe and out of trouble.

"First thing I tell them is I can't arrest them," Tyagi said. "So if they're out here drinking, instead of spending the night in jail sobering up, they get to go home and they don't feel like they're going to get in trouble."

Both Tyagi and Torres hope to become police officers after college. They said this provides them with hands-on experience in dealing with people.

Students are given a radio, flashlight, and they wear body cameras. If a situation became too serious or an individual was violent, students can radio police to help. Currently the program has students patrol the surrounding downtown area Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m..

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