Editorial | Gun violence threatens campus security

The Champaign-Urbana area is a piece in the nation’s substantial gun violence puzzle. With local shootings exceeding last year’s statistics in July, an alarming mood sweeps across campus as crime increases and communication remains ambiguous.

For three consecutive weekends, the University of Illinois Police Department has arrested an individual with a gun. The latest occurred around the Krannert Center where UIPD apprehended a 35-year-old man possessing a loaded gun and extensive magazine. Furthermore, C-U’s recent rise in gun violence reflects a national problem as the pandemic recedes: Crime dropped dramatically early into COVID-19 lockdowns, yet as we better control the virus, crime returns to “normal” or exceeds past statistics.

Primarily local, a pressing issue affecting students is the lack of a clear narrative from the University and community. For instance, with the recent Krannert Center arrest, no Illini Alert was issued informing students to avoid the area or stay vigilant. Although UIPD can argue the apprehension ended before an Illini Alert would’ve been sent, no direct communication to students means everyone’s left in the dark about campus incidents.

Additionally, Michigan’s Oxford High School shooting has again shined a light on mental health and gun violence as four teenagers died and many others were injured. On the day of the shooting, the accused shooter’s parents were called in to discuss the teen’s disturbing behavior alongside teachers reporting peculiar activity from the accused — who then received counseling.

No matter a high school shooter or a 35-year-old man outside Krannert, mental health surrounds these situations. Moreover, whereas an incident like the Oxford shooting rightly acquires immense coverage and assistance, the latest events on campus have warranted little communication from the University or offering of resources.

Without official disclosures from the University, students discuss rumors over social media and risk haphazardly fearing individuals who may pose no risk. Yet, without any transparent intervention from the University, ambiguity leads students to trust social media apps like Yik Yak and Snapchat more than infrequent UIPD alerts.

Despite UIPD services like the crime blotter updating students regularly, altercations such as the Krannert man or the gun-related crimes amidst Halloween weekend warrant alerts to students. In addition to increasing cautions to those on campus, more mental health services both for concerning individuals and those affected by gun violence are needed to ease worried minds.

Dr. James O’Dea, vice president of Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network, notes the importance of diagnosis in preventing gun violence like school shootings.

“We find in these terrible, tragic acts is the kids who engage in this behavior have gone undiagnosed and untreated for years.” Dr. O’Dea said. Not sympathizing with these violent actors, Dr. O’Dea states the rise specifically in school shootings can be attributed to behavioral health care being “under-supported, under-resourced and under-funded for some time, contributing to the present-day crisis.”

The University should be facilitating further communication about local gun violence and offering mental health resources. Instead, students share posts regarding troubled individuals while nothing changes.

Besides those needed changes, students, faculty and administration can ease the present predicament by checking in on one another. If you see a friend, peer or anyone in need of support, do more than swipe away — be vigilant and reach out. For instance, if a student sends an alarming email to a professor, necessary steps must be taken to protect that individual and those at risk.

Understandably, outreach for professors is difficult during COVID-19 and online classes. Yet, the job entails connecting with students and, at the bare minimum, ensuring they’re not in a harmful state to themselves or others.

Gun violence won’t disappear with increased alerts or better mental health resources. However, it can be mitigated and build a safer, more informed community. The University’s current outreach programs are ambiguous and too rare. For a secure campus, everyone must be responsible for each other and the University must step up to combat this emerging brutality.

 

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