Why doesn’t this campus feel safe?

According to the recently released report by the University Division of Public Safety, crime declined on campus this year. This is somewhat surprising, considering it doesn’t feel like it.

Some explanation may be found in the reporting methodology. For example, the criterium for aggravated assault was modified in the most recent report to exclude incidents that only involved minor injuries. That change alone caused a precipitous 60 percent drop from last year’s numbers in that category.

This fact is not lost on police. Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Christensen said as much when he remarked that some numbers in the report can’t be looked at as completely reliable. Putting the merits of releasing a report with possibly artificial numbers aside, this kind of forthcoming by police is to be applauded, but it still doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

Compared with our two closest Big Ten rivals, Indiana and Iowa, Illinois students have been victims of burglaries and aggravated assaults much more often. Why this is the case is anyone’s guess, but if city and University officials want to make students feel more at ease, they can take a different approach.

Efforts to improve campus lighting, SafeRides and emergency notifications are definitely a good start, but part of making students feel safe is making sure that campus looks safe.

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Whether justified or not, the general student perception of the police force is negative. Most students encounter police devoting their time to pursuing alcohol-related citations.

While the effects of alcohol on crime aren’t to be ignored, the fears students felt during the armed robberies in April were not assuaged by all the drinking tickets written during that time.

The police should not be expected to eliminate all crime. But until they stop devoting so much manpower to fighting an unstoppable drinking culture and expand investigative efforts, students shouldn’t be blamed if they remain skeptical. And no report will change that.