Tiger Patrol, the student-led personal escort service intended to offer students on campus a free and safe ride to their vehicle or class during the nighttime hours, has seen a notable drop in participation over the last two years and this semester especially.
While in years past, the program used to get nine or ten students interested in working for the program, this number has since fallen off to less than five inquiries a semester, according to Derek Myers, Chief of Police at the University of Memphis.
Myers says the transition to virtual learning, which left campus deserted for nearly two years, is partly to blame, as the program has not fully recovered following the return to campus. To add to the low numbers, a core group of students loyal to the program graduated just before the start of the pandemic, leaving a void.
Myers suggested that choice overload in the job market may be another contributing factor.
"They [students] may have found any things that pay more or at a more convenient time because if we need them, it's going to be in the evening hours," said Myers.
Due to the current labor shortage, fast-food restaurants like Chick-fil-A are offering cashier positions for $13/hour with flexible hours, which cater more to students with busy college schedules than long evening hours.
To make up for the lack of student participants, security guards and officers have taken on the extra responsibility of escorting students themselves. Together, they have conducted around 110 escorts this semester.
However, unlike students, officers' job descriptions are not limited to escorting students to safety. They are also expected to monitor campus along with reporting and investigating any suspicious activities or incidents.
"As with all calls, if personnel are tied up, that is less time to patrol the grounds and surrounding streets," Myers said.
On average, it takes five minutes or less to handle the requests. Still, there could be delays if everyone calls simultaneously or officers have priority calls that take precedence according to Myers.
Ethan Miller, a freshman business marketing major, participated in the program during the Fall 2021 semester but chose not to continue into the spring. Miller said the pay of $10/hour was not the problem but rather the rough hours.
"I basically had school, then work, then sleep – no time to live the college life," he said.
During his time on staff, Miller noted that he never felt overwhelmed by the number of calls. He rarely got more than 3 or 4 calls per night, but when he did, he said he felt a responsibility to answer the calls as quickly as possible to keep everyone safe.
"No one really took advantage of the opportunity of a free and safe ride," he said.
Students may not realize all the police services available on campus, but others have called for help, only to be turned down.
KV Vick, a junior psychology major, said she called the Tiger Patrol hotline in February after the battery in her car died. When she asked whether an officer could jumpstart her vehicle, the operator declined and immediately hung up before she could get another word out.
Tiger Patrol does not include towing or car maintenance services, for future reference.
However, if you feel unsafe and need an escort to your vehicle or class from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., you can call the Tiger Patrol hotline at 901.678.4663 (678.HOME) or click the SafeRide button on the LiveSafe app.
As for any aspiring Tiger Patrol members, the University Police Department has decided to wait until the Fall 2022 semester to begin actively recruiting students who may have an interest in working.