In a letter published in last week’s Campus Times, a parent complained that the university was not doing enough to prevent the “growing number of assaults” on campus. She accused the university of turning its back on vandalism, robbery and serious assaults. She demanded action. Her solution was threefold — to install security cameras at locations around campus, to increase the number of patrolling security officers and to destroy the footbridge into the 19th Ward.
I understand her concern for her children and for our safety, but her claims are unfounded.
Crime is not increasing on campus or in surrounding areas. Incidences of robbery, burglary and aggravated assault have held constant or decreased from 1999-2001, the last year of data available from UR Security. Also, UR’s crime rates are relatively low if you compare them to other colleges and universities of similar size in similar locations.
University administrators are not turning their backs on our safety and were already doing many of the actions she suggested in the letter by adding three cameras in the Wilson Blvd. area of campus, putting additional security personnel on patrol and increasing communication with students.
We should not remove the footbridge into the 19th Ward. Removal as a solution to crime on campus is ridiculous, especially considering the fact it would not have prevented the most recent incidents on campus — the incidents that spurred the letter. The men who attacked three sets of students on Feb. 12 didn’t walk over the footbridge, they drove here in a car.
To follow the letter’s logic, we might as well build an electric fence around campus, require badges to be worn at all times and build a dome over the school. At least we’d be safer, right?
Or would we? Crimes happen here too, committed by UR students. We have to face the fact that we don’t always live in a safe world and that no matter what we do, we are always at some risk.
The attitude expressed in the letter strikes at something deeper and more concerning — a fear of people who are perceived to be different than us. The neighborhoods that border the River Campus are filled with people of many different races, religions and careers. Some are rich, some are poor, but you can’t assume that any of them are any more criminal than you or me.
A college can’t be closed off from the outside world and the footbridge is an important connection to our community.
Rather than get rid of the bridge, UR needs to increase its commitment to improving life on the other side of the river.
Hildebrandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.