Concentrated crime keeps campus police on edge

This article was updated on Feb. 2 at 1:00 p.m.

Despite recent cases of attempted robbery and aggravated battery during January, officials said the number of police patrols will not increase on campus.

University Police Chief Barbara O’Connor said police are continuing to work with Urbana and Champaign police departments to solve the new cases and that, contrary to popular belief, simply increasing police patrols around campus would be “senseless.”

“We have limited resources. It’s challenging, and we have to be aware of how much money we’re spending over time,” she said. “We’re fortunate enough to be working with two other police departments.”

O’Connor also said that as a result of the recent crime spike, University police are looking into street surveillance technology and meeting with Interim Provost and Chancellor Robert Easter to develop a street crime unit. The unit is a special group of officers who would focus on patrolling areas that have increased level of activity.

She added that students who are fearful or critical of the police response should remember the crime alert system is fairly new to the University.

“Now that the news is in your Inbox, it creates a sense of panic,” she said. “But we are a large campus in a large city and these things will happen. At the end of the day we still have 40,000 sets of eyes and ears to help keep everyone safe.”

Three cases of attempted robbery have been reported on campus from Jan. 22 to 31. O’Connor said police are continuing to investigate all three crimes, though currently there are no leads.

“The evidence appears to indicate that the three crimes are not connected. The descriptions of the offenders are not consistent, unlike a few of the incidents over break.” she said.

In January 2009, University police arrested several individuals linked to three crimes committed on campus over the holiday break. Deputy Chief of University Police Jeff Christensen said officials have not associated those arrests with any other charges.

“At this time the only incidents we have found to be related were the robberies on Dec. 13 in Oglesby Hall, Dec. 17 near the Undergrad Library and Dec. 28 near Sixth and Stoughton streets,” Christensen said.

O’Connor said all of the cases that prompted crime alerts last semester and over break have been cleared with arrests.

“December was an awful month for us. We arrested those individuals and cleared all of those robberies and thought we would enjoy a period of peace,” she said.

Champaign Chief of Police R.T. Finney said the recent increase in crime has not affected investigative methods.

“This collaboration (between the Champaign and campus police departments) is not unusual for us to do,” he said, adding that the upswing in crime over the winter months was also not unusual. “We have already arrested several people for a few of the cash grabs and pizza delivery robberies.”

Despite some of the new prevention plans in progress, O’Connor said the need for student involvement and awareness will never change.

“All of the winter break cases we solved were with student information,” O’Connor said. “This is a community problem, and we need to work with students to prevent anything worse from happening.”

On Feb. 8 there will be a town hall discussion event regarding how to stay safe on campus. The discussion will take place at 7:00pm in Noyes Lab Room 100. A panel consisting of campus and state police officers will be available to answer campus safety questions.