‘Don’t Walk Alone’: Matador Patrol Helps Students Feel Safe

  • CSO Advisor Maria Martinez drives in her patrol cart looking for people to escort.

    Maria Martinez, a CSUN student and lead community service officer with Matador Patrol, roves the CSUN campus and offers safety escorts to students and staff, during her Dec. 11, 2019 shift. Photo by Evyn Bryant.

  • Safety escorts prepare the patrol cart for the night's shift.

    CSUN students who work as Matador Patrol community safety officers prepare for their shift on Dec. 11, 2019. Photo by Evyn Bryant.

  • CSO Seth Murray writes in a folder, ahead of his safety escort shift.

    CSO Seth Murray fills out paperwork prior to his Dec. 11 safety escort shift. Photo by Evyn Bryant.

  • Matador Patrol community service officer Gabriel Gottfried, a mechanical engineering major, sits at a table at CSUN Department of Police Services, filling out a log sheet before the start of his safety escort shift.

    Gabriel Gottfried, a mechanical engineering major, prepares for his Matador Patrol shift on Dec. 11, 2019. Photo by Evyn Bryant.

Minutes prior to the start of her Matador Patrol safety escort shift in December, junior and criminal justice major Maria Martinez began pulling out radios, flashlights and jackets in preparation. Martinez, a two-year Matador Patrol veteran, was this night’s shift lead.

The Matador Patrol is a student-operated public service organization within CSUN’s Department of Police Services (DPS). Matador Patrol’s main goal is to safely escort students to their destination, while making the process and app easy to access and use.

“The community service officer program, which we call Matador Patrol, focuses on safety escorts,” said DPS Capt. of Special Services Scott VanScoy. “It’s their primary function, enhancing safety and security on campus.”

The organization’s community service officers are easy to identify, as they all wear red-and-black polos and overcoats.

In between flashing her light and answering calls, Martinez laughed when she explained that she’s basically paid to be a buddy.

“Two is better than one,” Martinez said. “We’re not cops, we’re here to help and escort you.”

Safety escorts work Monday through Thursday, from dusk to 11 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters, and dusk to 11 p.m. in the summer. You can request a safety escort by calling (818) 677-5042 or 5048, or using the CSUN app. Beyond Matador Patrol hours, CSUN police officers are available to assist students who would like a safety escort.

During Martinez’s shift, community service officers strolled into the Matador Patrol office on the second floor of DPS, while others caught up on sleep in their dorms before coming to work. 

As the shift lead, Martinez takes radio calls and patrols the campus by golf cart, picking up those who need the extra assistance.

Freshman and theatre major Jenna Ricci needed an escort back to her dorm after a night at The Soraya.

“The tram wasn’t running, and I wasn’t going to walk,” Ricci said. She was well aware of Matador Patrol, already having used it during her first semester. Ricci said she told her friends and peers about the safety escort service, noting that it makes her experience as a student better.

“How could [Matador Patrol] not be important?” Ricci said as she was escorted to the campus dorms. “[Students] always have the option, and they don’t have to walk alone. It makes the campus so much safer.”

After listening to Ricci, Martinez added that she had essentially described the Matador Patrol motto, “Don’t Walk Alone.”

It gets dark much earlier this time of year, and with that, those looking to take advantage of CSUN students and staff roaming the campus during the evening hours could do so. It’s not a new issue: In 1979, CSUN fraternity members created the Matador Patrol to help students and staff feel safer as they walked across campus, by providing qualified safety escorts. Forty years later, the patrol is still providing this essential service on campus.

“We’re looking into the future, and one of President Dianne F. Harrison’s focuses is student engagement,” VanScoy said. “So, we are currently building the [community safety officer] unit up from 30. Chief [Gregory Murphy] would love to get to 60, and then 100 students engaged in paid positions, and to be able to support their livelihoods — to give them that extra financial resource, and also give them a career opportunity.”

CSUN’s Department of Police Services (DPS) is actively recruiting students to join the Matador Patrol program. Community service officers are paid and trained.

“It’s a great job as a student,” said freshman and mechanical engineering major Gabriel Gottfried. “You can work at night when you don’t have class.”

To learn more and work as a community service officer with Matador Patrol, apply here.

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