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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Police escorts at the University of Utah have seen a big jump in the year since the murder of student athlete Lauren McCluskey last October, according to University of Utah police officials.
Police also said the school’s RideSafe rideshare program has been gaining popularity since it launched earlier this month.
Lt. Jason Hinojosa with the University of Utah Police Department said they had 1,249 calls for courtesy escorts in 2018.
So far in 2019, they have had 1,621 calls with more than two months still left in the year.
“It tells me it’s a popular service,” Hinojosa said during a ride-along showing the service. “The success of the police department is dependent on the trust the community has on us.”
Building that trust is something Hinojosa said is going to take time, but he said the department is doing everything it can to let people know that a lot has changed in one year.
“(It’s) understandable there has been stress to that relationship,” he said. “People have voiced very openly their distrust to police and we are working hard to regain the trust and that’s going to take dialogue. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s something we are willing to do.”
Hinojosa said they have made 17 changes in the investigations department alone. Some of those include increased training and monthly audits with all cases. He also said the department has hired 12 seasoned officers for the investigations department.
“More accountability, definitely more oversight,” he said. “We want to be an open book. We are working towards greater transparency.”
The university also offers another shuttle service that has become popular. It’s a rideshare program called RideSafe that operates like Uber or Lyft — except it’s free.
That service started at the beginning of the school year and averaged just a few rides each night. Now, drivers are picking up 50 or more people a night in some cases.
“A lot of students like that feeling of safety and comfort so they can get to the places they need to be,” said driver Robert Witkop during the ride-along.