RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Police is trying a different approach to community safety with a brand new unit of emergency responders.

The “safety ambassadors” are a team of unarmed, civilian employees who respond to VCU Police service calls that do not require a police officer, such as property checks, nonmedical transports and welfare checks on students living in residence halls.

The six-member team was first introduced in February, but planning for the initiative began as far back as 2021 — when VCU’s Safety and Wellbeing Advisory Committee recommended that a “non-sworn crisis and de-escalation unit be implemented” in its final report. The safety ambassador unit was created in August 2022 and staff completed their training in January 2023.

According to VCU Police, each safety ambassador has completed a total of 188 hours of crisis intervention training and mental health first aid training.

Since the start of the program, safety ambassadors have reportedly handled an average of 46 calls per day.

VCU students, faculty and staff members are encouraged to approach safety ambassadors when they see them around campus. Community members can also call VCU Police to have ambassadors dispatched to their location.