Students safety priority with police

By Angelina Cole

Last semester’s string of armed robberies put students and faculty on guard as they navigated Campustown. As the academic community returns, University police continue to stress the importance of simple safety tactics.

During the summer, two females were attacked on campus, in addition to the earlier armed robberies. “These crimes are usually crimes of convenience,” said Jeff Christensen, assistant chief of the University police department. “The best way to prevent them is not to give attackers the opportunity to commit the crime.”

The University police suggest students should let friends know where they are going, be aware of their surroundings and not isolate themselves.

“Lots of students jog in the morning, which is great, but they don’t bring their cell phones, and they don’t tell people where they’re going,” said Kris Fitzpatrick, chief of University police.

“Alcohol abuse will also increase the chances of becoming a victim in addition to becoming a perpetrator of battery or assault,” said Christensen.

The Student Patrol, which operates out of the University police department, helps alert the department about crimes and escorts students home at night.

During 2006, $382,442 worth of property was reported stolen to University police.

“It is important to lock doors, watch your stuff and not leave things lying around for even a second,” said Fitzpatrick.

“There is an unlimited number of people willing to relieve you of that property,” added Christensen.

The Department of Facilities and Services is reworking the traffic structure on campus to make travel safer.

“We’re working on updating street markings and signage around campus,” said Pam Voitik, director of Campus Services for Facilities and Services. The process began during summer break and will continue into the school year.”

University bike paths will be phased out of pedestrians’ way and into streets, much like in large cities. With their own specific lane, bicycles will be treated as vehicles and abide by traffic laws. This new mode of transportation is already in place at the intersection of Illinois and Goodwin streets.

Campus safety isn’t only up to police and University administration, Christensen said. Student input is often sought, but rarely received.

“People expect to have a safe campus, but we can’t achieve this alone,” he said. “We need assistance from the campus community and the student advisory board. The student body is an extra 42,000 pairs of eyes we can use. We want students’ input – what is important to them? What is the best way to get information to them rapidly?”

Tips to protect yourself courtesy of UI police

  • Walk with a group of people when at all possible
  • Tell friends where you are going
  • Be alert, recognize your surroundings
  • Be confident
  • Notify the University police of any suspicious behavior via the neighborhood Crimestopper network and the anonymous call line, 217-333-TIPS