Police warn against campus safety bubble mentality

Police+cars+and+fire+trucks+gather+on+Green+Street+outside+of+Evergreen+Tobacco+after+a+shooting+that+took+place+early+Sunday+morning.

Austin Yattoni

Police cars and fire trucks gather on Green Street outside of Evergreen Tobacco after a shooting that took place early Sunday morning.

By Lilly Mashayek , Staff Writer

For many students, the campus safety bubble burst after the Green Street shooting, but a month later, police fear students are falling back into their old mindsets, something they are trying to prevent.

“This may not be home, but while you’re in college this is where you are seven to eight months out of the year,” said Patrick Wade, UIPD spokesman. “So just be more aware of what’s going on in Urbana and Champaign and take some ownership of that.”

Since the shooting, police from both Champaign and Urbana continue to work to reduce gun violence in the community.

Jeff Christensen, UIPD chief of police, said they have been providing information to students about both gun safety and general safety tips on campus.

“Join our social media platforms,” he said. “We’re pretty effective at putting information out on social media because we realize that’s where people are looking for information.”

Christensen said UIPD also offers training on how to respond during a shooting so that people are more prepared in case it happens again.

“We’ve done that mostly for faculty and staff, but we certainly can and have done that for students,” he said.

Both cities teamed up to form the CU Fresh Start program, which brings in people who are at risk of engaging in gun violence and offers them resources such as advice on finding employment or enrolling in school.

Anthony Cobb, Champaign Police Chief, said the introductory CU Fresh Start meeting spurred interest in joining the program by at-risk residents.

“We had nine individuals that came into the initial call in … at the end of the initial meeting, seven of them signed up,” he said. “And since that initial meeting … all of them have signed up.”

The department is also in contact with bars, apartment buildings and other establishments on campus to address general safety.

“The safety of the community rests with the members of that community,” he said.

At a Campus Safety Forum that was hosted by student body president Ron Lewis, representatives of all three police departments, the Champaign City Council, the Sheriff’s Office and both city mayors were present to remind students to be aware of crime.

“The micro-urban problem of gun violence has come home,” said Michael La Due, Champaign City Council member. “It’s come home to me, it’s come home to the neighborhood.”

Cobb said that campus is not separated from the rest of the community.

“Students, we always talk about (living in) that bubble,” Cobb said, “But I wish I could pop some bubbles sometimes and say we just gotta be a little bit aware of what’s going on around us.”

La Due said it’s important for students to realize that Champaign isn’t a small town where crime disappears.

“You’re not getting away from urban situations here, they’re just on a smaller scale,” he said.

Patrick Connolly, Urbana Police Chief, said there were events leading up to the shooting on Green Street, included someone being beaten unconscious. However,  people walking past failed to take notice.

Referencing Cobb, Connolly noted receiving only one telephone call about ten people beating someone unconscious, despite numerous witnesses walking down Green Street. He encouraged the community to recognize their part  by helping police know about on-going incidents.

Cobb said it’s necessary for students and residents to share information with police as soon as possible so that they can do their jobs effectively.

“The question I’ll have for students or anyone in Campustown is, ‘is this the community we want, is this what we want our community to look like, our campus to look like?’” Cobb said. “I think the vast majority of people would say no.”

After a serious crime happens, such as the Green Street shooting, Christensen said people are more open to taking campus safety seriously. However, he said, students need to be more actively aware that crime can happen on campus at any time, not just after a tragedy.

“Our campus is a relatively safe campus, but we always say we’re not immune from crime,” he said. “And it’s clear we’re not immune from these tragedies.”

At the forum, Christensen noted that there were very few students who showed up.

“If we were holding this event the night after (the shooting) happened, how many people would be here?” he said.

[email protected]