Alerts increase more than crime

A little over a year ago, I became a member of the Illinois community with my appointment as your Chief of Police. This past year I have found myself working with a very committed, professional and qualified staff within the Division of Public Safety. The culture of Illinois is very strong and healthy. The care and concern surrounding community issues from our students, faculty and staff coupled with our police officers’ community-based approach and personal commitment to keep our campus safe is a healthy combination.

The reality is that our campus and surrounding area is not immune to criminal activity. One significant change this past year has been the implementation of greater use of Crime Alerts. Besides the mandate through the Department of Education’s Clery Act to provide a timely warning about certain campus crimes, I strongly feel that the use of Crime Alerts is important for our community’s awareness and safety. I also realize that more frequent Crime Alerts can have the potential to give the impression that crime has increased significantly, which is a frightening thing for students, parents and others.

In regards to the recent string of robberies within the campus district, statistically these incidents were greater this past Fall Semester compared to the 2008 Fall Semester. However, they were slightly lower than the 2007 Fall Semester. December was a particularly active month with nine reported robbery incidents in the campus district. Despite the efforts we place in preventing these crimes, offenders will unfortunately continue to prey on our open campus community. When incidents do occur, we work aggressively to direct our efforts to identify the offenders and bring them into the criminal justice system. And those efforts are working. For example, through these efforts our patrol officers recently identified three individuals who subsequently have been arrested for three of the December incidents.

Additionally, I am very proud that our police department works with the Champaign and Urbana Police Departments. These established relationships extend beyond the cities and also include our partnership with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, various federal agencies and others. At times, all these agencies are working together to address criminal issues within the campus district. On a daily basis our police officers work with these other agencies’ officers not only to investigate the recent string of robberies but campus safety in general.

Despite our efforts, we need your help. The police cannot be expected to prevent or solve crimes independently. As devoted as we are to keeping our campus safe through strategic patrol and investigative efforts, we have a limited number of officers and resources. It is important for our students, faculty and staff to think about their own safety and do as much as they can to prevent becoming a victim of these crimes of opportunity. Crime prevention information and safety tips are available on our Web site at www.dps.illinois.edu. It is equally important that we watch out for each other’s safety. We are your police department. Call us if you see a suspicious person or situation. Call us if you see someone who may be placing him or herself into a threatening situation that may allow them to be potentially victimized. Calling 911 immediately in these situations is appropriate and wise. Let us work together and keep our Illinois campus safe with the attitude towards crime as “not on my campus.”

I will continue to work with Interim Chancellor Bob Easter to evaluate our staffing levels and resources. We have moved towards greater and more effective use of technology. In addition to daily patrol initiatives, technology such as security cameras can assist in deterring crime and identifying offenders. During these harsh economic times campus safety remains a priority.

Your safety is important to us within the Division of Public Safety. We value your learning, teaching and research. We remain committed to the Illinois mission.

Sincerely,

Chief O’Connor