Authorities address student concerns in public safety forum

The Illinois Student Senate hosted a Campus Safety and Crime Prevention Town Hall Forum in conjunction with the Illinois House of Representatives on Monday evening.

Representatives from University, Champaign and Urbana police departments presented information on self-defense, burglary protection and reporting crimes.

University Police Lt. Skip Frost addressed the issue of police patrols on campus.

“We can’t be around every corner; the fiscal reality is we can’t afford to be around every corner,” Frost said.

Frost also spoke out against the growing sense of fear among students.

“We’re just doing a better job of getting these alerts out,” Frost said. “Yes, there has been an increase in crime; we’re not white washing that, but four years ago it was a lot worse.”

Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney also referenced crime statistics on the likelihood of being attacked in his presentation.

“Crime has actually gone down in the last 15 years in Champaign. With the exception of robbery, all other types of crime have gone down,” Finney said.

Urbana Assistant Chief of Police Patrick Connolly followed Finney with a discussion on burglary prevention.

“Burglaries will go up during Spring Break,” Connolly said. “Lock up your valuables; document the serial numbers with your local police.”

Connolly also advocated registering with the police’s Vacation Watch program, which allows officials to check on residences regularly for suspicious activity. He said this service is free and can be activated by either calling the police department or registering online.

Following their presentations, the panel addressed the students’ questions and concerns.

When asked about the concentration of crime on campus, Frost said the issue about why the crimes continue to happen is more important. “It’s not about where these crimes are coming from; it’s about why they’re happening here,” Frost said, “These suspects fit in here; they’re out-of-town college students that can blend in.”

He said the suspects do not appear to attend the University based on prior arrests made.

Frost added that the individuals arrested by University police were “thugs” and not gangs involved in any type of initiation rituals.

Another concern among students was the police’s plan of action for Unofficial, which Illinois State Police Sgt. William Emery said would involve state officials.

“We will be present on campus during Unofficial,” Emery said. “We will be assisting in roadside safety checks and patrolling.”

The forum ended with talks about future plans to increase safety.

Finney briefly mentioned plans in progress to implement more lighting along Fourth Street. Those plans are something the student senate has been pushing for, said David Wall, ISS vice president external.

“We pushed for lighting, more emergency phones, and provided input to former Chancellor Herman about the new camera system in progress,” Wall said.