Segways Arrive On Campus
By Cynthia Gonzales
Paul Blart has nothing on the University of Houston-Downtown Police Department (UHDPD) Segway officers.
Their Segway-game is strong.
Officers Lisa Barajas and Aaron Lake-Garcia are well-trained on the University’s recent acquistion of Segways.
“We do get our share of Paul Blart jokes,” Lake-Garcia said as he zipped around on one of the two new Segways that the department acquired over the summer.
According to UHDPD Chief Michael Benford, the department has wanted to implement a campus Segway program for over a year.
“We've been discussing about the feasibility of a Segway program to determine if it would be a good fit in our fleet,” said Benford."UHD’s student population and the volume of pedestrian traffic also influenced the decision to launch the pilot program last summer."
UHD's Segway program was modeled after Houston's Metro Police program, which is a very large Segway program covering bus routes, terminals and Metro Rail platforms, Benford noted. The chief also invited Metro’s lead instructor to campus to deliver a Segway demo for his team.
“We thought it would be a good asset and give more visibility and mobility in and around campus,” he said.
“We saw their ability to operate in close spaces especially around crowded areas as well as all the bike trails and parking areas we have surrounding our campus..”
The Segways stand about two feet higher than a standing officer’s height which gives officers a better vantage point when policing a crowd. There are plans to acquire two more in the upcoming fiscal year.
“Anytime you can increase officer visibility, it give us a better response time than being on foot,” said Benford, “Plus, it provides our officers another level of protection."
Benford also noted another benefit—campus community engagement.
“The response has been very positive,” Benford said, “When you see officers on Segways it immediately becomes a conversation piece. You’re not just seeing them drive around. You can walk side by side and have a conversation with the officers."
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 45,000 alumni and offers 43 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).
UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates of any four-year university in Houston and Texas and is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.