Leah Seupersad, 404-413-1354
Georgia State University has added an additional layer of safety on campus this fall to help faculty, staff and students who live, learn and work on campus at night.
The new Panther Ambassador program has placed security officers at nine posts around campus, including routes from the Aderhold Building to the University Commons and from the Petit Science Center to the Piedmont North housing complex.
“We wanted to have an extra set of eyes and ears that could help us watch campus at night,” said Beth Jones, Georgia’s State’s associate vice president of finance and administration. “They’re not the police, but they’re there to be a resource and to help people.”
The university hired Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC) to provide experienced security officers for the program. Nine ambassadors and one supervisor will work at Georgia State Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., while two officers will monitor the routes on the weekend.
Besides deterring crime by being a consistent presence on campus, the Ambassadors will escort students, report suspicious behavior and report hazards, such as burned out streetlights.
Noel Rivera, CSC program manager, said students can identify Georgia State’s 10 ambassadors by their bright yellow shirts and panther identification badges. They monitor campus on foot, bicycles, Segways and six-seat golf carts.
“We want everyone to know that we’re here for everyone,” Rivera said. “We’re here for the students to get across campus at night safely, but we will also help out or pass on any information that we can to the people who work here or to tourists we come across.”
The Panther Ambassadors are well equipped with a variety of supplies such as flashlights, cell phones and ponchos. They also carry security radios that are monitored by the Georgia State Police Department.
“I’ve spent a lot of time telling students who we are and what we do and a lot of them are glad that we’re here,” said Robert Lockhart, a Panther Ambassador who spent a recent Thursday evening monitoring the corner of Piedmont and Gilmer streets.
Georgia State’s Panther Ambassadors come from various careers and backgrounds.
Lockhart is a retired veteran sheriff’s deputy from Des Moines, Iowa, who spent more than 15 years in law enforcement.
Ron Smith, the lead supervisor of the Panther Ambassador Program, is a former United States Naval Linguistics officer from California where he worked as a certified emergency medical technician and paramedic.
And Rivera, who is fluent in Spanish and Russian, worked at Yankee Stadium in the loss prevention and crowd management industry for more than 15 years. He is also a member of CSC’s Georgia Dome, National Football Leagues and Special Response Team and works for the Gwinnett County Police and the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office.
“I really enjoy the diversity at Georgia State,” Rivera said. “We want to make a difference here and be that extra eyes and ears and boots on the ground to deter criminal activity and be there for anybody who needs help.”
After serving a month as an ambassador at Georgia State, Rivera’s advice to Georgia State students is to always be aware of their surroundings, to travel in pairs whenever possible, and if necessary, use the 78 emergency telephone boxes around campus that connect to the Georgia State Police Department.
“Too many times I have come up to students and they are dialed in, they are listening to their iPods or they have their laptops visible. It’s easy to snatch and grab and that’s a very common crime,” Rivera said. “Yes it’s okay to listen to music, but you must be aware of your surroundings.”
To learn more about the Panther Ambassadors, visit their website at http://www.gsu.edu/transportation/62251.html
Oct. 8, 2012