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Police Trying Hard to Keep College Campus Areas Safe

Entrance at Harrison Subway. Photo by Ashley Robinson

After getting off the Red Line at 8 p.m. on Harrison and State Street, former Columbia College student Aaron Hopgood, 19, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his friend, Derrick Holmes, 19, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were proceeding up the stairs to go home, when two men pulled them back down them.

The two men pulled a gun and demanded they hand over their phones.

“When I looked at the men that grabbed me, I had noticed that I had seen them on the Orange Line. They had followed me to the Red Line,” said Hopgood.

Hopgood and Holmes are not the only victims that have been robbed at nearby train stops, or around the college campus areas, which consist of four different schools, according to the Chicago Police Department.

Violent robberies have increased  in the area recently. During the period of Sept. 7 to Oct. 17, the robbery rate rose from 41 percent to 61 percent, according to Every Block Chicago.

During the same time period, approximately 555 people reported being robbed, according to Chicago Neighborhood and City Guide. But not all of robberies are reported to police, something even the police acknowledged.

“I feel people don’t report things like getting their iPod stolen because even if they got it stolen they still aren’t gonna get it back ” said District One Officer Yvonna Najdala.

Najdala said the police are doing the “best we can” to patrol the area day and night, but they have a serious manpower shortage.

“There is not enough of us, but we try to reach out to people by telling people to tell people to not have their personal belongings out in the open, posting posters up on safety tips, not to travel alone at night, and by simply patrolling the area as best as we can,” Najdala said.

But some of the robberies may not be reported to police because students will report them to campus police instead. For instance, Hopgood, who came to the Dwight Lofts, one of the college campus housing, to report his robbery.

“I reported the robbery to the Dwight Lofts security and they had me write down a statement, but that was it. No one followed up with me,” said Hopgood. “I wanted them to tell the real police and let people know that this did happen to me and that they need to watch their backs. I see why people do not report anything. Security doesn’t do anything about it.”

Hopgood said he reported the robbery to the Dwight Lofts because he didn’t have a phone and he was still in shock on what happen to him. He couldn’t think properly at the time. Often people do run to the campus security guards when a crime happens.

“It’s their responsibility to report the crime to the police. If they came in and told me they got robbed I will let them use our phone to call the police or I will just call the police myself,” said the campus security guard, who works at the Dwight Lofts and asked not to be identified.

“If it happened on the property of the Dwight Lofts, then we have the right to detain them until the police arrives,” the guard said. “When crimes do get reported to us though, we have them right a statement and we give it to the management office who decides what to do with the report.”

Students have to protect themselves in the street while walking in the city. It is their responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, according to one officer.

“Opportunities are much larger downtown,” said District One officer Mary Panick. “I mean look, people are out with their phones and iPods out. It would be easy to rob someone down here. I wish we can be everywhere when we can’t.”

Knowing about the robberies has concerned students, parents, and the people who work in the area.

“Hearing about all the crimes that go on around the campus makes me be concerned about my daughter’s safety,” said Lisa Harris, 46, a parent of a student who attends Columbia College.

“I had to pull her out of the dorms so she can stay home, that way I know she is good at home with me. There are too many robberies going on and I am paying way too much money for me to be worried about her stuff getting taken,” said Harris.

Even security guards are concerned about their individual safety. A CTA security guard, who works the Red Line Harrison stop, and asked not to be identified, said, he worries for students’ safety.

“Yes, I could be the next victim. Makes me not wanna come to work, let alone the people who take the train, ride these trains. You never know when it could happen.”


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