Editorial 9.28.12: Time for Bradley to reassess safety measures

It’s disheartening that once again, for the third week in a row, crime is on our front page.

Since the beginning of the year, four students have been robbed at gunpoint, and McDonald’s, which is directly across from Main Street Commons, was robbed by three or four armed suspects.

Wednesday night, a double shooting took place just a couple miles off campus, leaving one Peoria resident dead. And that’s just in a span of five weeks.

As students, we have to look at these incidents and decide the best way not to be involved in a potentially life-threatening situation anytime we go outdoors at night. It’s sad that that’s the situation we are currently in, but it’s reality. And it’s something the entire Bradley community, and even the surrounding communities, should be taking extremely seriously.

In today’s article “Campus on edge following armed robberies,” Bradley University Chief of Police Brian Joschko said there has been an increase in patrols and presence, and he’s right. There has been a clear and definite police presence around the St. James complex and the off-campus streets where students live, where the community meets campus. And that’s a great comfort to the students in those areas.

But at this point, something more needs to be done. Apparently, campus is too accessible, and students are an easy target. The police response is not the problem; they can’t be everywhere at all times, and their response time to both of Monday night’s robberies were quick. In addition to that, it seems students weren’t just being careless in these instances.

They weren’t walking down Main Street alone at 3 a.m. They were heading to their homes near 8 p.m., or walking outside their apartment complex, or traveling in pairs.  And they still became victims.

There is no way to assuredly prevent every crime from happening, but there are improvements that could be made. For starters, the text message that went out for the first robbery was a relief to many students, as there were plenty of people who are out in the St. James complex at that time of night. That decision was a good one, and we still believe the proximity to students should be a determinant for future text-message judgement calls.

According to the BUPD policy, the texts are saved for “life-threatening or potentially life-threatening incidents.” Emails are intended to be more informative, whereas texts provide instruction to do something, and are just one part of a variety of alerts, including changing the Bradley home page.

Regardless of that, we still believe that certain situations, particularly the McDonald’s armed robbery a couple weeks ago, require greater notification than an email, regardless of the policy. Students were grateful to have a quick notification in the pivotal moments following the robbery.

Also, because we are in the wake of these crimes, students are more on-guard, and the police said they are more vigilant in their patrols. That shouldn’t wane. Students feel more comfortable with the beefed-up patrols, but it’s also a deterrent for additional crimes of opportunity. And officers on foot and bike patrol might be able to spot or hear situations that an officer in a squad car might miss. If a suspect takes off on foot, they can run through areas that a car can’t get to.

A more visible police force is an obvious response, but areas where students reside should be more visible, as well. Streets around St. James where students park and many of the off-campus streets are very dark, and that lends itself easier to potential crimes.

It is problematic for the off-campus areas because the city also has to collaborate with the university, but it should still be pursued. We think the community would be receptive to that idea, particularly after this string of armed robberies. President of the Moss-Bradley Neighborhood Association Rob Lorenz, in today’s article, said the association would be willing to discuss off-campus lighting in the neighborhood. That project would take time and money, but it’s a worthwhile investment.

This is a complicated situation that is going to take significant time and attention to improve. And honestly, there is nothing more deserving of that than the safety of the students.