Saturday, November 17

Underutilized community service officers provide safety, company


Kathy Ngo, a first year graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, is escorted from Boyer Hall by Eric Agar, a community service officer. The CSO escort service program operates from dusk until 1 a.m. on most nights, except on Thursdays, when it operates until 2 a.m.

Kathy Ngo, a first year graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, is escorted from Boyer Hall by Eric Agar, a community service officer. The CSO escort service program operates from dusk until 1 a.m. on most nights, except on Thursdays, when it operates until 2 a.m. Maya Sugarman


When Kathy Ngo stepped out of Boyer Hall into an empty courtyard a little before midnight on Monday, she was hardly surprised by the sight of a tall man waiting for her.

After they greeted each other, the two discussed the last time they had met and the mutual friends they share.

If it weren’t for his uniform, it would have seemed that they were just friends.

But Eric Agar, a fifth-year civil engineering student, is a community service officer who was escorting Ngo to her home in Westwood.

Ngo, a first-year graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, has been using the escort service since her second-year as an undergraduate at UCLA.

Agar, a former photographer for the Daily Bruin, said CSOs perform a variety of duties which include serving as evening escorts, operating Evening Van Services and providing building security.

“I really love this job. … You get to meet a lot of people,” he said.

Agar heard about the position through a flyer and has held the job for the past two years.

Indi Montgomery, a graduate of UCLA, serves as a supervisor and has also been a CSO for multiple years.

“I think my favorite thing (about being a CSO) is the quality of people I work with … the kind of people that want to help,” she said.

“The program began in 1977, when a small group of student volunteers served as evening escorts to take people from fraternities to sororities,” said Matt Ellis, co-manager of the CSO program.

Today the entire program is much bigger ““ 28 officers worked on Monday night alone ““ though only a few served as escorts for each shift.

Ellis said the service most utilized by students is the Evening Van Service, which provides transportation to students on Mondays to Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m..

On a high-volume night, the vans might transport up to 300 students, Agar said. He added that while the Evening Van Service can assist numerous students, the Evening Escort service is often under-utilized.

“You don’t have to call just because you are scared,” Agar said, “Sometimes you just want someone to walk with.”

He has also encountered students who feel as though they are burdening him by calling for an escort, but he said escorts generally want their service to be utilized by more people.

The escort service runs from dusk to 1 a.m. throughout the year, except on Thursdays, when the escorts are available until 2 a.m. Its boundaries are Hilgard and Veteran avenues, and Sunset and Wilshire boulevards.

In addition to providing assistance to individual students, CSOs also patrol buildings and dormitories, Ellis said.

He also said the CSOs help provide support to resident assistants in dorms.

One of the issues that comes up in dorm patrol and escorting is intoxicated students, which CSOs deal with on a case-by-case basis by using their own discretion, said Yuri Sepp, a third-year history student and CSO officer.

“We don’t want to call someone for an alcohol-related incident unless there’s a health risk or there’s a violation of some sort of law,” he said. “I’ll know it when I see it.”

But Montgomery said the presence of CSOs on campus extends well beyond the individual services they offer.

“You could say our primary purpose is to be the eyes and ears of the police department,” she said.

Ellis, who describes CSOs as liaisons to the police, said the student officers have an advantage of knowing the campus.

“CSO officers work on a non-intervention policy. If we see an assault taking place … we call UCPD,” Sepp said.

CSOs carry radios which allow them immediate access to university police. Students who simply dial a 911 number are often referred to an off-campus agency. As a result, they have to wait much longer for a response, Montgomery said.

She added that their radio lines also exhibit the same feed received by police radios, and as a result, CSOs have helped lead to many arrests. When descriptions of suspects come through radio lines, CSO officers look out for them while on duty and are able to pinpoint their exact location.

In addition to a radio, Agar said CSO officers are also generally equipped with a flash light and pepper spray.

The pepper spray requires additional training beyond what is necessary to be a CSO officer, but thus far Agar, who has undergone the training, has not found a reason to use it.

“A lot of our services are based on the theory of deterrence,” he said.

Students can call 310-794-WALK to utilize the CSO services.

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