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Off-campus safety a BUPD priority

A recent off-campus armed robbery has raised concerns about the security of students living and spending time off campus.

The Bradley University Police Department (BUPD) responded to the robbery at 5:21 p.m. Feb. 7 at the intersection of Cooper Street and Barker Avenue. The two suspects fled from the scene, and the victim sustained non-life threatening injuries.

“An individual was walking down the street and was approached by the suspects,” BUPD Chief Brian Joschko said. “After [the suspects] robbed and attacked him, they ended up fleeing after another saw the incident happening … that individual is the one who dialed    9-1-1 and began the emergency response process.”

A safety alert was sent to students that evening about the incident. Out of the six safety alerts this academic year, five were from incidents occurring off-campus.

According to Joschko, students spending time off-campus present challenges that don’t occur when hanging out on-campus. Joschko said there is a disparity between the perception of crime on and around campus and what actually happens within the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Reporting suspicious activity … that really is one of the more challenging perceptional issues that we seem to deal with,” Joschko said. “When I talk to students, sometimes they might say, ‘I wasn’t really sure,’ or, ‘I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this particular incident,’ but I remind students that, yes, it’s an urban campus and, yes, it’s a police department … but in fact the officers have availability to check out these activities.”

Additionally, Joshko said students who live off campus need to be aware of the security differences from on-campus residences. Bradley’s residence halls have multiple security measures, and in many cases, buildings cannot be accessed without a student’s identification card and a key.

“Living in a residence hall, we have better access to control and territorial marking,” Joschko said. “It would be unusual for somebody that’s not a university-affiliate to get into one of the halls.”

Junior nursing major Anna Hanson, who lives in St. James complex, said she generally feels safe living off campus.

“Sometimes it is kind of sketchy walking back [to my apartment] later at night because I usually spend a lot of time at the library, so I come back late after studying, and sometimes it’s a little scary,” Hanson said. “But most of the time, there are a lot of cops over by St. James, which is nice.”

However, junior nursing major Afton Sobasky said she never walks alone at night and has felt unsafe in her house on Cooper Street.

“There has been crime around my house, near it, and it may have gotten broken into over Christmas break,” Sobasky said.

Senior marketing major Katie Anderson said she thinks it depends on where a person is used to living.

“Personally, I feel safe living off campus,” Anderson said. “[But] I really think it depends on the person and where they grew up and how they were raised. Honestly, I’ve had more safety issues with people messing with my car than me.”

According to Joschko, the university ahs instated some measures that protect students on and off-campus, such as the blue light emergency phones.

“They mark the territory and identify that this is part of the college area, and it’s also a subliminal reminder to folks of some of the safety precautions out there,” Joschko said. “We also have some in the off-campus areas as well – Main Street Commons … [and] some in Campustown.”

The officers also provide off-campus house checks when requested, patrol the streets and remind students to use the Hilltop Safety Cruiser. Anderson said there are some precautions students can take to increase their safety when off campus, too.

“A mistake I constantly see people do is walk with headphones in staring at their phones,” Anderson said. “I think this gives people a false sense of security when in reality it is making them more vulnerable.”

The Bradley police department maintains that the safety and well-being of students has all its attention and resources.

For questions about campus safety, contact BUPD through its non-emergency phone number (309) 677-2000, or attend Coffee with a Cop events, where students can interact with BUPD officers over coffee and donuts. The next Coffee with a Cop is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23 in Michel Student Center.

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