October, 2010 Campus Safety Update

To: The Campus Community
From: Marlon C. Lynch, Associate Vice President for Safety and Security and Chief of Police
Date: October 14, 2010

I am writing with news about safety issues and initiatives on campus, an update on crime patterns, and some important reminders about ways we can all be safer.

The beginning of a new academic year and the last of the warm weather do typically bring a temporary increase in criminal activity, here and on most campuses. Recently, we notified the campus community of a report of a robbery on the main quadrangle. That is a highly unusual location for such an incident, and in response, we have detailed a University of Chicago Police officer to patrol the quad from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

It is also a reminder that we should all take some basic precautions throughout our day:

  • Lock doors and windows in your residence
  • Don’t leave valuable items unattended in vehicles
  • When walking around campus and the neighborhood, walk in groups and stay alert, especially at night
  • Avoid using cell phones, iPods, and headphones while walking; using or displaying these items can make you a target for theft
  • Use public transportation options: free bus service, SafeRide, and umbrella service

While we always strive to do better, I am pleased to report that violent crime in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community is at record lows, and continuing to decrease—violent crime in this area from Jan. 1 through Oct. 6 is down 17 percent from the same period a year ago, and down 33 percent from the 2005–2009 average for that period.

I am confident we can make our neighborhood even safer, and with that in mind, we are pursuing a number of initiatives to improve our technology, infrastructure and policing practices.

On the main quadrangles, we are part-way through a comprehensive program of equipping buildings with electronic card access, which will help keep our academic spaces and the people using them after hours safer. That key-card access technology is complemented by new safety cameras being installed at building entrances and on emergency phone pedestals. The video footage is centrally recorded at our new communications center at 6054 S. Drexel Ave. When an alarm is triggered or suspicious activity is reported, the cameras give dispatchers and responding officers real-time information that makes them more effective; the cameras also can help in the investigation of criminal activity. The installation of security cameras is being accompanied by development of policies regarding the use of such technology that will preserve our important values around privacy.

We are also preparing to relaunch our CAlert system with much broader coverage in weeks to come. CAlert is the system that allows us, in the case of a major emergency, to immediately notify all members of the campus community by email, text messaging and voicemail messages. Later this fall, the entire campus community will be automatically enrolled in CAlert, but we will need your help to make sure we have the best way to reach you immediately. You will hear more about this in weeks to come, and we ask for your help in making this as effective as possible.

On the transportation front, we have introduced the TransLoc initiative and when it will arrive. Transloc can be accessed from a variety of platforms, including the Internet, smart phones and digital kiosks that will be installed around campus. You can take a look at http://uchicago.transloc.com/.

Over the last 18 months, the Department of Safety and Security has gone through some building and reorganization, and the new administrative structure is now in place, making the most of our new facility at 6054 S. Drexel Ave. At the same time, we are implementing some new strategies and programs that reflect best policing practices that are tailored to our campus.

Beginning this fall, UCPD has strengthened its Community Services Bureau, which is dedicated to building better relationships with the University community. One new initiative is the North Campus Patrol, composed of two officers dedicated to the area between Woodlawn and Ellis avenues, and 55th and 59th streets. They will work between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday, getting to know students, staff and faculty who live and work in the area. Please introduce yourselves, and get to know them.

Finally, UCPD is working closely with the Chicago Police Department to target areas of concern or vulnerability within our patrol area. By using directed patrols, guided by sophisticated analysis of criminal activities, we already have seen some significant local reductions in crimes such as robberies.

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to the Midway Crossings project, a long-term improvement that will benefit safety at several levels. This joint effort of the City, the Chicago Park District and the University will create new pedestrian ways between 59th and 60th streets, along Ellis Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. The crossings will feature improved lighting at two levels, new emergency phones, safety cameras, concrete planters that buffer pedestrians from vehicular traffic and attractive, wider sidewalks that allow more people to travel safely at the same time.

I’d like to express my gratitude to my staff and colleagues across the University and beyond who have made all these efforts possible, and to all of you who help keep this a safe campus. Have a good year, and please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about safety issues at ucpd-pio@uchicago.edu.