As Loyola students move into dorms for the first time since March, once again filling the Rogers Park neighborhood with maroon and gold-clad college kids, the area is starting to come alive.
However, a recent string of robberies affecting both Loyola students and community members strikes a different tone.
In recent weeks, a handful of students and community members have been robbed or experienced attempted robbery within blocks of Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, The Phoenix reported.
The robberies and attempted robberies — sometimes at gunpoint — have occurred both day and night near some neighborhood spots commonly frequented by Loyola students, such as CVS (6510 N. Sheridan Road) and The New 400 Theater (6746 N. Sheridan Road), among others.
Crime isn’t new to Rogers Park, as noted in the weekly Phoenix crime blotter. But it’s less common that such severe incidents happen to students in such a short time span, and it has left me — and likely other students around here — feeling uneasy.
I know this anxious feeling all too well after a 2018 spree killing in the neighborhood left two people dead — both their murders left unsolved.
Loyola Campus Safety Chief and Director Tom Murray said the sworn police department implements additional safety measures when students return to campus and this semester is no different. However, with recent robberies occurring so close to campus, he told The Phoenix the department has “increased … patrol efforts and have added additional personnel and programs.”
But that’s all Murray will say.
I wanted to know specifics of what’s being done to keep students safe, so I reached out and asked Murray how many additional officers were being added to patrols, how efforts were being increased and specifics on the programs being added. I was met with a watered down statement.
“To ensure the safety of the Loyola community and those within our department, Campus Safety is unable to discuss staffing models or tactics,” Murray wrote. “The department makes optimal use of its staff through force multiplication efforts and adds patrols through hire back programs.”
Essentially, Campus Safety seems to be telling students to trust it’s doing its due diligence to fight dangerous crime near campus, without providing any concrete details.
But that trust rings hollow.
In the past, we’ve trusted the police force to notify us of crimes such as when a Loyola student was brutally beaten, knocked to the ground and robbed just three blocks from campus in 2018.
But Campus Safety was silent.
The Loyola community received two crime alerts mentioning three of the recent incidents. Campus Safety is mandated to be transparent about crime on or near campus under a federal law called the Clery Act, which requires campus police to notify students when an incident posing a “serious or continuing threat” occurs within a certain geography, according to the Clery Center.
While the department did the bare legal minimum by notifying students of the most recent crimes, it still lacks transparency and specifics on how exactly it’s keeping students safe going forward — aside from a few vague statements.
This behavior fits an all-too-familiar pattern that I’ve reported on the past three years: members of Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney’s administration, such as Murray, are secretive and often withhold information on sexual misconduct, street crime and other important campus issues.
While it’s easy to feel comfortable in Loyola’s cushy lakeside bubble, Rogers Park is no stranger to violent crime.
In November, a 20-year-old former Evanston basketball player was shot and killed blocks from campus while sitting in a car parked at 6700 N. Newgard Ave.
Some violent crimes also remain unsolved, such as the 2018 spree killings that left two Rogers Park community members dead and many with questions, despite the case having the highest reward ever raised by Chicagoans for information regarding the arrest and conviction of a homicide suspect.
In 2016, on the 6700 block of North Clark Street, a Loyola student was the unintended target of a gang-related shooting when she left her apartment to grab a snack at a convenience store downstairs.
In 2014, a Loyola student was shot and killed at West Albion and North Lakewood Avenues, about a block away from what’s now Raising Cane’s. The 23-year-old victim and another were approached by two people who drew a gun and attempted to rob them. At the time, the Chicago Police Department told The Phoenix there was a “struggle for the weapon,” ultimately leading to the victim’s death at the scene.
The 2014 death is an important reminder of the danger of armed robberies — they’re just a millisecond away from being a homicide, if, for example, the victim doesn’t comply with the robber’s demands or if they reach for the weapon.
It’s frightening to think the perpetrators of these neighborhood crimes could still be walking these streets. And we can only hope local police, including Campus Safety and the Chicago Police Department (CPD), are doing what they can to solve them.
This community has a right to know what exactly is being done by local police to fight crime in the area. We deserve answers and peace of mind. Otherwise, all we see is a handful of empty statements and cops doing what it takes to satisfy the bare legal minimum.
In News this week, find an article outlining what’s open on campus and a story on President Joe Biden’s relief plans.
In A&E, check out another installment of Phoenix Playlist Picks and a commentary on “High School Musical’s” 15th Anniversary.
In Sports, read a profile on women’s basketball transfer Bre Hampton-Bey and a story on Loyola’s soccer teams playing in the Chicago cold.