By Brooklyn Draisey
The Department of Public Safety’s Students Helping Out, or SHOUT, program is entering its third week of operation, and so far, has been successful.
The program uses trained student ambassadors as a patrol group for student events and around downtown, in case students need help that doesn’t warrant police intervention.
The Iowa City City Council voted on Tuesday, 7-0, to allow on-duty SHOUT ambassadors into bars after the underage hours have passed.
“Although it’s just getting started, the early reports are saying that it’s been very positive,” City Manager Geoff Fruin said.
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SHOUT student ambassadors can be identified by their orange polo shirts and walkie-talkies they use to contact the police, said Angela Winnike, the night mayor of Iowa City. She has witnessed the ambassadors in action after the football game on Sept. 2, she said, and saw the ambassadors did really well.
Ambassadors will patrol downtown from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, when student foot traffic is at its highest.
The program is not meant to police students but to offer help and provide service to students who might need it. Whether a student has been separated from friends or needs a ride home, an ambassador will be able to help, Winnike said.
“It’s someone that they can reach out to for help,” she said. “For someone who probably doesn’t deserve to get a ticket or get arrested but clearly just needs help.”
If a student does need help from SHOUT, they can use the Rave Guardian app to contact an ambassador or get a ride.
“I think it’s a way to make people who are younger feel safer and more comfortable calling for help,” she said.
While ambassadors in training are shadowed by a police officer, the police stay in the background. The program has been a huge help to the police who patrol downtown, Winnike said.
“The whole point is that the officers don’t get involved unless they feel that someone might be a danger to themselves or that they could potentially hurt someone else,” she said.
Any student can take advantage of this program, not just those who party downtown.
“It doesn’t have to be anyone who’s out at the bars or out drinking, you could just be walking home late from the library,” Winnike said.
Fruin said he supported the move allowing SHOUT ambassadors in bars after underage hours have passed but said the protocol may need to be changed.
“For us, this code change is really just a cleanup to make it expressly clear that they’re permitted in the bars for that purpose only,” Fruin said. “As we get further into the year, there may be things that need to be tweaked, protocols that need to be changed, but that’s common with any program.”
Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said that he is pleased to move ahead with the SHOUT program.
“It looks like a very good program, and I’m pleased to support it,” he said.
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