UIPD, ISS hold forum to address recent crimes

Champaign+police+chief+Anthony+Cobb+speaks+to+students+regarding+recent+crimes+during+a+public+forum+held+by+the+Illinois+Student+Senate+and+University+of+Illinois+Police+Department.

Champaign police chief Anthony Cobb speaks to students regarding recent crimes during a public forum held by the Illinois Student Senate and University of Illinois Police Department.

By Charlotte Collins

A recent increase in reported crimes prompted a public forum Tuesday at the Illini Union for students and officials to talk about staying safe. The forum was held by the Illinois Student Senate and the University Police Department.

University Chief of Police Jeffrey Christensen noted that there has been an increase in Crime Alerts Alerts sent out to students recently, but he believes the general concern around campus regarding crime is exaggerated.

“We send those out for awareness, but it causes concern,” Christensen said. “Many times, it makes this place look like it’s less safe than it really is and were going to battle that through information.”

However, University safety officials are taking measures to combat the crimes.

“There are more plainclothes officers, we leveraged technology a little bit more in terms of cameras and things like that,” Christensen said. “We’ve been fairly successful; you haven’t seen many alerts, I think it’s kind of slowed down.”

He also said that crime alerts sent to students through text will be moving from an opt-in policy to an opt-out policy, in which students are automatically enrolled upon registration in an effort to keep students informed.

Christensen told students he does not believe there is any evidence that an increase in crime is related to increased gang activity in Champaign.

“I don’t think there’s any information that it was tied to gangs,” he said. “The big misinformation came out when we had a couple guys running around with masks on and fake knives. That exploded. We had parents calling, we had media calling, we had students calling.”

Also on the panel was Urbana Chief of Police Patrick Connolly, who claimed some of the increase in crime is due to a loose definition of the term “assault.”

“If you delve deeper into it, you’re able to identify all the varieties of crimes that were actually taking place under that big umbrella and the technical term ‘assault’ ­— which is a person put in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery — were actually very few,” he said. “So statistics sometimes create issues.”

Joseph Moseley, senior in ACES, asked if the police departments would be putting more officers on duty in light of the recent crime rate increase, noting he “never see(s) Urbana or Champaign POs just walking around.”

Champaign Chief of Police Anthony Cobb said the city was working with the University to get more officers out on the streets and on foot patrol as well.

Associate Dean Domonic Cobb said there are resources students can take advantage of to inform themselves on how to stay safe, listing: SafeWalks, SafeRides, the Dean of Students’ website and the Campus Safety Commission.

He said the commission is “a group of people from across the campus who get together to talk about the resources and talk about how we can amplify that through using our own social media networks.”

Christensen called on students to be active reporters of crime and pleaded them to take precautionary measures for their own safety.

“We need the students as partners, we need to remove the opportunity for being a victim,” he said. “Rely on us. Call us. We need your help. We work very hard. We’re all very passionate about this, but we simply can’t do it alone.”

Charlotte can be reached at [email protected]

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated there was an increased amount of Illini Alerts in October. There was an increased amount of Crime Alerts, which are mandated by the Clery Act. The Daily Illini regrets the error.