November 3, 2006

SG makes plans for new security commission

Student Government (SG) has plans to create a new security commission focused on improving campus safety, responding to the armed robbery of a student in the heart of campus in mid-October.

This incident is the third robbery on the 5800 block of South University Avenue since August, according to the Chicago Police Department. Within a four-block radius of the center of campus, there were 10 robberies in October alone.

Tulane Kagy, a first-year in the College, was robbed at gunpoint in the early evening of October 20 when she was walking on the corner of East 58th Street and South University Avenue. Her assailant approached her and demanded her purse—which contained her money, student ID, dorm key, and cell phone—then fled in a nearby car with two other men.

“I was surprised that it happened pretty much right on campus, in a well lit area with other people around,” Kagy said. “I knew that things happened, but it always seemed to be around the edges of the school.”

Kagy also expressed disappointment with the response of the U of C Police Department (UCPD) and the University.

“It took five minutes before anyone came, which is a lot longer than what they said during orientation and the safety meetings, which promised that a patrol car would be there in two minutes, probably just one,” Kagy said. “I felt pretty vulnerable.”

Kagy relayed her experience and her frustration with both the slow response time of the UCPD and the difficulty and expense of obtaining new University identification and keys in an e-mail to the SG complaint listhost.

“As a first-year student, I am barely finding my way around campus to the various classes and activities I have signed up for, yet the University leaves me completely alone to figure out how to get replacements for my student ID and dorm-room key,” said Kagy in the e-mail.

In response, SG organized a security commission with the hope of improving the official response to crimes involving students, and steering capital improvements to campus to better benefit student safety.

“This year, SG is going to be focused on crime prevention—not just how to avoid becoming a victim, but how students should approach living in Hyde Park intelligently,” said third-year College Council member Kyle Lee, who is closely involved with the new commission. “We want to do some concrete work in the areas of better campus lighting, more emergency phones, and better communication and coordination with the administration and UCPD.”

Lee, who works as a UCPD dispatcher and was on duty during the mugging of Kagy, says that he hopes to buck the trend of SG committees falling short on original goals through a more intelligent and informed discussion with University and UCPD officials.

“What I’ve been doing the last three years, actually being employed with law enforcement, is going to enable us to really look at actual ideas and work at increasing the influence of SG,” Lee said. “With more influence, we can put more pressure on the UCPD and administration to respond to student concerns.”

The committee plans to study crime incidents and talk with constituents to determine areas that would most benefit from increased lighting, more emergency phones, or heightened police presence. Council members have also suggested building an online database that maps crime around campus, mirroring ICAM, a service of the Chicago Police Department that displays data for the entire city.

The security committee also hopes to improve communication between students and the UCPD. Students can subscribe to a safety awareness listhost to be updated when serious crimes occur around campus.

Additionally, there has been talk of renewing the SG–sponsored series of outreach events that brought students concerned about security together with officials from the University and UCPD. The commission is also looking at resurrecting a program in which students and administrators walk the neighborhood at night to identify areas that seem dark or unsafe.

Lee said the main goal of the commission was a gradual plan to increase preventative security on campus, rather than serve as an enabler of knee-jerk reactions to specific events.