As a student living off campus for the first time, the Loyola experience has truly changed. Friends back home love making comments, “Have fun in Chiraq,” while others ask with actual concern, “Do you ever feel unsafe?” or “Do you carry pepper spray?”
A large city will almost always have problems with crime. Some areas of Rogers Park are known to be in the middle of gang lines. As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times and many other sources, there were two separate shootings over Labor Day weekend, both attributed to gangs in the neighborhood.
The most recent victims of the neighborhood’s gun violence, as reported by DNAinfo.com and abc7 Chicago, include a 16-year-old boy who was shot in the hand last Wednesday, and a 25-year-old man who was fatally shot Thursday afternoon.
If we expand this scope and look at Chicago as a whole, then this violence can be considered common. While drawing a comparison of Rogers Park to other Chicago neighborhoods, Rogers Park is relatively safe.
There have been 280 homicides in Chicago this year so far and seven of those have taken place in Rogers Park.
We live in a very diverse part of the city, and our neighborhood is home to students, families, working professionals and the elderly. Living off campus, I encounter these people frequently. My neighbors have two children and a small yappy dog. An elderly couple frequently does yard work as I walk home from classes. In this setting, it is rare for the threat of crime to cross my mind.
However, sharp realities of the world we live in can shock the everyday routine. My roommates and I decided to kick off the start of the school year right by getting brunch one Sunday. As we left, our neighbors were outside with a repairman. We discovered later they had been robbed the night before. Someone had smashed in their interior door, leaving glass all over their foyer.
We later received an email from our landlord explaining the break in. However, even though I live a mere three blocks from campus I never received a safety alert from Campus Safety.
The Campus Safety alert system seems to be underused as a whole. I’ve only received one email from them since the start of the academic year, and it only discussed on-campus bike thefts. Since then, there have been eight shootings within a mile of campus, and not a peep from the alert system.
Even the Clercy Act Safety Bulletin, Campus Safety’s annual crime report, only covers crime on campus. Students live and travel through the neighborhoods around campus every day, and without a Campus Safety alert to the crime in the surrounding area, any of them are at risk of unknowingly wandering through a dangerous part of Rogers Park.
This is concerning, seeing that two current students live directly next door, as well as more in the surrounding areas. I doubt that any of my fellow students checked the police report, and were informed that someone in the Roger’s Park community was a victim of robbery.
With recent shootings on Devon and Glenwood avenues, as well as near the Morse Red Line stop, police presence has been increased in Rogers Park. In addition to more foot patrols they are now including air support via a helicopter. Rarely do I walk to class and not see at least two police cars.
With these changes, should Loyola students feel safe?
As students we need to be cautious. Be aware of our surroundings, as well as organized. I have deep concerns that the student population was not notified that there was a robbery feet from my residence, which is within the defined patrol zone of Campus Safety.
My concern spreads to the organization of their department as I could never connect with anyone to comment on the lack of response to this robbery, or any other related incidents. If they can’t even hear out a student, what are the odds of them taking any action to improve the faulty system?
As students and civilians of Rogers Park, we deserve to be protected to the best of Loyola’s abilities. As of now, I don’t feel that is being done. When a simple notification is all it takes to save someone’s life, a safety system that fails to do so may as well not be established at all.
Lauren Hames is a contributing columnist. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.