One way to get a feel for campus safety is to ask someone who was a victim of crime. After all, safety is just as much of a feeling as it is compiled of statistics. My roommate recently became a victim of armed robbery on the corner of 16th and State streets, right outside our house. A gun was pulled on him, and the robbers stole his backpack, wallet and cell phone. My roommate is now a faithful customer of Marquette’s L.I.M.O. service, because he feels unsafe traveling alone for even a few blocks. One aspect of attending a city school is living with city problems. Unfortunately for Marquette students, Milwaukee has had the biggest crime increase of cities with populations of 250,000 or more. According to a June 14, 2006 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, murders and assaults in Milwaukee have “soared.”
This follows an overall increase of crime throughout the Midwest.
Clearly Milwaukee has its share of crime-related problems. Our immediate concern, however, is campus safety. Records from the Milwaukee Police Department during the month of October show Marquette’s campus is feeling the burn. For instance, there were eight robberies, three aggravated assaults, three burglaries, five motor vehicle thefts, two shots fired (both in the past week) and 33 thefts.
Although these numbers are serious, they do not compare to those found just outside the DPS patrol zone. Just north and west of Marquette, crime is more severe. How are we to feel safe on campus when our nearby neighbors are being mugged? There is no way to isolate ourselves from the problems of the community, and this directly relates to the uneasy feeling students get when they walk home at night.
For those of us living outside Marquette-owned property, crime is especially a concern. Not only do these students experience increased rates in theft and burglary, they also have to deal with the presence of convicted sexual offenders. Twelve offenders live near these students.
Another sign that Marquette’s campus is not particularly safe is suggested in the different habits students have adopted. One female student who attended a Public Safety self-defense class told me she no longer keeps her hair in a ponytail when walking alone at night. This makes sense, because if someone would attack her from behind, she would have a much better chance of pulling away if the attacker can only grab a portion of her hair. Another female student said she always turns around to glance at whomever is walking behind her. After taking note of height, weight and physical appearance, she feels safer knowing she could pick someone out of a lineup.
If we accept the reality that Marquette is not a safe campus, we have to look for solutions. Marquette’s recent addition of lampposts was noble, but it has to go further. My roommate was robbed partly due to poor lighting. Marquette has to work with off-campus housing to address this issue if Marquette students don’t just live on campus. One female student has suggested that more DPS officers should patrol campus on bike and on foot. This suggestion came after an officer patrolling in a car failed to even look at her while she was alone in a dark alley. A few students have suggested the Milwaukee Police Department should have an increased presence on campus, due to their broad jurisdiction and more visible authority.
One more way to increase campus safety is to change the location of where dollars are invested. I know my tuition dollars are going toward impenetrable dorm security, and it seems like off-campus housing students are getting the short end of the deal. Those on the campus borders need more security. Even if Marquette shifts the majority of its security to its borders, the heart of campus will remain safe. Crime simply cannot penetrate an area so congested with traffic and people.
Many of us chose Marquette without giving much thought to the issue of security. This is because an environment of education is expected to be safe. Now that we are faced with reality, let’s not be discouraged that crime on campus exists; rather, let’s focus on how to get rid of it.
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