New safety measures, including surveillance cameras, more police patrols, and more transit options for students, will be implemented in Hyde Park according to a public safety webinar on Thursday afternoon. The event was hosted by University President Paul Alivisatos, Provost Ka Yee Lee, and Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath, following a string of violent incidents in the neighborhood this week.
For University students, the Lyft Ride Smart Program will be available after 9 p.m. every day until November 24, instead of only Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. During O-Week this year, the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) adjusted the UGo Shuttle System to connect campus to several locations along Garfield Avenue, including CTA stations and UChicago’s Arts Block, Heath mentioned.
Heath also said that the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and Chicago Police Department (CPD) would temporarily increase the number of patrols on and near campus and install additional CPD Police Observation Devices (POD cameras) starting next Tuesday. CPD already utilizes a number of POD cameras that, Heath claimed, they use to deter crime, identify suspects, and make arrests. According to Heath, CPD Superintendent David Brown committed a “significant” number of officers to patrolling the campus and the surrounding communities. UCPD and CPD will collaborate on training exercises and traffic enforcement in areas with high pedestrian traffic.
In addition to these temporary measures, Heath described how the University would work with local aldermen and CPD to develop long-term strategies for implementing permanent crime-deterrent technology within Hyde Park.
“Over the next two weeks, CPD will be developing a long-term strategic plan to address the rise in crime, including gun violence plaguing the community surrounding our institution,” Heath said. “The Department of Safety and Security will be included in that planning process. I am confident that the City of Chicago and the Chicago police department are taking these incidents very seriously, and I look forward to working with them on these issues.”
Alivisatos expressed his condolences to the family of Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, a 24-year-old recent UChicago graduate who was shot and killed during an attempted robbery at 956 East 54th Place. He emphasized cooperation between the University, South Side residents, and elected officials in addressing security concerns.
“Like so many others in Chicago and across our nation, violence has left our local community and our South Side neighbors shaken, seeking answers, and demanding a solution,” Alivisatos said. “Violence today is on the same scale as a public health crisis and requires a response.”
Heath said the University does not have any information indicating that Zheng's shooting was racially or ethnically motivated, a concern that he added has been raised by international students in the community.
Alivisatos plans to keep working with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to improve safety within the Hyde Park community. He promised to hold a “campus discussion” that would include a member of senior leadership from CPD in the next week.
Next, Lee pledged to share information regarding ways the University could honor Zheng within the next few days.
“In addition to being a University alum, he was a loving son and a caring friend for many in our community and many more around the world,” Lee said.
The Chinese American Association at Greater Chicago organized a GoFundMe fundraiser that will go towards Zheng’s family’s travelling and legal expenses. Since being created on Thursday, the fundraiser has already exceeded its goal of $25,000, with 756 donors contributing $48,995 as of Friday night.