The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is investigating whether a car discovered Wednesday morning was involved in the string of violent crimes last week that included the shooting death of 29-year-old graduate student Amadou Cisse as he was walking home near the corner of East 61st Street and South Ellis Avenue.
The car, found on 102nd Street near Western Avenue, matched the description of a light-colored car with red driver’s side doors that the CPD released the day after the murder.
Police have not yet said whether the car has been linked to the murder, but according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the vehicle’s owner, who works at a mechanic’s shop, claimed that he had loaned it out Sunday and that it had not been returned by Monday morning in time to drive to work.
Detectives interviewed the man and have ruled him out as a suspect, according to the report. They are also investigating several other cars matching the description.
A CPD spokesman said that the investigation is ongoing and that developments would be announced as they materialized.
Meanwhile, in the week since the attacks, administrators have taken extensive measures to assure the University community that they are improving security on and near campus.
The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) increased patrols in the neighborhood immediately following the attack and yesterday established a UCPD substation at the corner of East 61st Street and South Drexel Avenue. The trailer substation will be staffed 24 hours a day until the new UCPD headquarters opens at that location in May.
In the past week, the UCPD has installed two new blue light emergency telephones at the corners of 61st Street and Drexel and Greenwood Avenues. One of the emergency phones near the site of the murder had been removed because of ongoing construction.
There are also plans to install emergency phones at University, Woodlawn, and Kimbark Avenues at 61st Street within the next week, said UCPD Sergeant JoCathy Roberts.
The new phones are three feet taller than the currently installed versions, and will flash a strobe light similar to those of police cars when activated.
The University’s SafeRide program, which offers free late-night transportation to students in the University area, added two vans and two additional phone lines to improve the efficiency of service.
At a forum on campus safety at the Charles M. Harper Center Monday night, Brian Shaw, director of campus transportation, said that the number of students requesting the service had significantly increased following the attacks.
“We have a capacity to carry a lot more people than we do, and we’re happy to keep expanding that,” Shaw said.
Shaw’s office is considering expanding the service by offering it beginning earlier than its current 10 p.m. start time.
President Robert Zimmer also announced yesterday that he had convened a Working Group on Safety and Security co-chaired by Vice President and Dean of Students Kim Goff-Crews and Divinity School Dean Rick Rosengarten. The committee, composed of students, faculty, and staff, will review current security policies and solicit input on how to improve the University’s safety procedures.
Zimmer will also meet with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to “ask for his support in finding ways to further reduce crime in our community,” Zimmer wrote in an e-mail to the campus community.
At Monday night’s forum, a handful of students directed questions to UCPD Chief Rudy Nimocks and Sergeant Roberts about the University’s response to the attacks and general safety guidelines.
Nimocks assured students that UCPD squad cars were on hand to escort students to and from campus. The department is also mulling the possibility of expanding its coverage area, he said.