Safety Guides provide a helpful, reassuring presence

Safety Guide Operations Supervisor Victoria Artishon

Anyone who has visited Dinkytown recently may have noticed a number of friendly new faces.

Since mid-September, Safety Guides—identified by their maroon and gold jackets and hats marked as such—have been present on the streets, greeting passersby and looking out for the well-being of U of M community members and visitors. 

The new Safety Guide program is part of the University’s comprehensive approach to promoting public safety in neighborhoods near campus. Safety Guides (about four per night) will be on hand Thursdays through Saturdays, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. each night—the most active and visited times for the Dinkytown neighborhood. 

Safety Guide Operations Supervisor Victoria Artishon says the response so far has been extremely positive.

“People have been curious, asking what kinds of things we can help with, and some have approached us simply to say thank you for being out here,” says Artishon.

Artishon explains that while the guides are primarily available as safety escorts, “[We’re] observing and reporting any kind of suspicious activity. We also work collaboratively with UMPD and University Security, and we interact with the unhoused population, so if there’s an opportunity where they may need some resources, we can help get those as well,” she says.

Artishon, a Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe tribal member who grew up in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis, says she knows the area well and with her degree in criminal justice, the job is a perfect fit.

“I love the atmosphere here. The students have been great, they’re really friendly, and it falls right in line with my degree,” she says. “I love interacting with them and each night is different. 

Anyone can approach a Safety Guide to ask for an escort home, to a vehicle, or to a nearby business, or simply to ask for directions or chat about safety around campus.

And as the Safety Guides get to know the neighborhood and community, they’re building relationships with Dinkytown businesses and property owners to enhance collaboration around safety. 

More than anything, the Safety Guides are a visible and accessible touchpoint for promoting comprehensive safety at the U of M.

“I think that sometimes simply our presence has been a deterrent to some of the things going on,” says Artishon.

And with the coming cold, Artishon says that warmer jackets are indeed on order and on the way. 

“We’ll still be out here serving the community.”