November 3, 2006

Campus BB-gun shooting leaves students feeling uneasy

Shots were fired at several Hyde Park residents on South Ellis Avenue near East 58th Street at 7:37 p.m. on October 31, raising serious concerns about campus security.

No one was hurt or injured, and U of C police officers who were already surveying the area quickly captured the shooter.

The suspect has been charged with two misdemeanor crimes stemming from the shooting, which was with a BB gun.

The officers also apprehended the suspect’s sister, who was driving the vehicle used to chase the victims down. She was charged with minor traffic violations.

A third passenger exited the vehicle and escaped the scene without being arrested, said Rudolph Nimocks, chief of the U of C Police Department (UCPD).

The shooting follows several incidents of armed theft and assault on and near campus. These recent crimes have increased student safety concerns.

First-year Tiffany Kwak saw the perpetrators flee the scene of the shooting.

“I’ve never feared for my safety as much as I did then,” Kwak said. “Recently, with all the crime around campus, I have been especially aware of my surroundings.”

University and community officials said the crimes are isolated and not part of a larger trend. Bob Mason, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, said Hyde Park has one of the lowest crime rates in all of Chicago.

“On campus, University police work in conjunction with Chicago police,” he said. “Intense and diligent police controls are the only way of preventing crimes against students.”

Nonetheless, sporadic crime on campus is inevitable, said Duel Richardson, director of Neighborhood Relations.

“This is an urban campus and random acts of violence are to be expected,” he said. “Crime can happen anywhere or anytime.”

Nimocks said students need to be aware of their environment at all times.

“There’s always a concern when any crime is committed on campus,” he said. “Students need to watch their surroundings and avoid distractions while walking.”

The openness of the U of C campus allows outside individuals, such as the perpetrators of these recent crimes, to gain access, Richardson said.

“There is a cost to this freedom [of an open campus],” Mason said. “But I’m sure most wouldn’t want to gate the campus off. Nobody wants to live in a totalitarian police state.”

Kwak said she realized that stopping all crime in an urban setting is impossible.

“There is no way to patrol every inch of campus and prevent every crime,” she said. “I’m certainly not in Kansas anymore.”