Some DePaul students on ‘high alert’ as campus safety stagnates

Lincoln Park is thought to be a safer neighborhood of the city. According to some DePaul students, this may not be the case. 

Many DePaul students had their own run ins with crime around the Lincoln Park campus, and others believe the rates of these incidents have been increasing. As fall turns to winter and the days get shorter, anxiety around crime on campus is rising. 

Jonathan Nevarez is a senior at DePaul who has had multiple run-ins with crime. His first experience with crime came when he was trying to sell a pair of shoes and went to meet with potential buyers, when they stole the shoes from him and ran without paying.

“I made the mistake of giving them the box instead of just one shoe to look at,” Nevarez said. “As soon as I gave it to him, he just started running.”

One of the thieves stayed behind and Nevarez stopped him asking to come to the police station with him. The thief was cooperative until they got close to the station. 

“The guy was being cooperative until I got to the doors of the police station then he just started booking it,” he said.

In that moment Nevarez decided to act, and started to run.

“It was like a scene out of the movies I was running in the middle of the street chasing this guy,” Nevarez said. “I ran half a mile and I caught him.”

After apprehending one of the thieves Nevarez took him to a restaurant to wait while he called the police. 

“The police came and I told them I want my shoes back or my money and the police officer said the only way we can do that is if you press charges on the kid that I had,” he said. “ I told him I guess I have to because I’m not leaving empty handed.

Nevarez thought at this point that things would be okay and that he would get his shoes back. This however was not the case.

“I got a call like a week later with the status on it was like, ‘Oh yeah you don’t have enough information to press any charges you don’t have enough evidence,’” Nevarez said, “I was upset you know obviously because the evidence was that he took it there’s nothing more that I can prove in that.”

Nevarez claims that his story isn’t unique and that the rates of crime around campus seem to be getting higher. 

“There is scary stuff happening around here and I think it’s growing too,” Nevarez said. “When I commuted the first year and lived in Lincoln park the second there wasn’t really much of anything and then this past year there’s been a lot more severe stuff happening.”

Nevarez’s story is just one student’s encounter with crime, but there are many more students with similar stories. 

Katherine Bellew, a 21-year-old DePaul student, was the victim of a phone theft not too far from the Student Center. 

“It happened last June on Kenmore about a block away from the Student Center,” she said. I was walking and passed three teenagers, about sixteen years old. They came up behind me, shoved me, and took my phone and ran. I was very startled and cried until a neighbor walking their dog saw and brought me back to campus.” 

At the day of the incident, DePaul was having their annual Fest concert on the quad, which included police and campus public safety presence. 

“I did file a report with public safety because I kind of forced to because they saw me talking to the cops on campus and then started to ask me questions,” she said.

The theft left an impact on Katherine, not only because she lost an expensive and important item, but also a harsh reminder that anyone is a target on urban campuses. 

“Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t go on your phone if possible, also try not to walk alone,” she said. This was in the daytime and I still got targeted.”

Despite contacting campus public safety and the Chicago police, her phone was never found. 

Mike Marterie, a sheriff with the Chicago Police Department, shared some helpful safety tips for students when walking on or around campus. 

“Don’t ever wear two ear buds when walking day or night,” he said.. “Always have your keys in your hand with the key sticking out, it makes a great weapon if you have to defend yourself. Stay off the train especially after dark. When walking, keep your face out of your phone and always look at people walking towards you and look behind you often. Also, look at what people are wearing.”

For campus safety, Public Safety is the go-to security service that is accessible for 22,000 plus students to use 24 hours a day, seven days a week and houses all the crime statistics reported on and off-campus. 

In their 2019 Safety and Security Information Report, they’ve reported the types of crimes committed in the Lincoln Park campus and residential facilities between 2017 and 2018:

Crimes that have decreased:

Rape (9 reports to 6 reports)

Aggravated Assault (10 reports to 6 reports)

Burglary (25 reports to 17 reports)

What has increased:

Robbery (15 reports to 16 reports)

Liquor Law Violations (523 reports to 751 reports)

Dating Violence (0 reports to 3 reports)

Stalking (5 reports to 9 reports) 

Looking at these numbers, it is noted that all of these crimes, except for liquor violations, have not changed by a drastic amount, less than 20 reports.

The DePaulia also reported on these crime statistics, agreeing that they appear stagnant with little change, but have also added that there are some crimes that went unreported, either by students not reporting them or these reports are compiled in a different report other than Public Safety’s.

They’ve also stated that Public Safety knows about these reports and are in their best interest to provide support and any way to prevent any further crime from happening. Despite these efforts, some students still don’t feel as safe.

“It makes me feel really unsafe because I work and live in Lincoln Park,” Aggie Kallinicou, a DePaul senior, said. “I’m always walking around at night and I don’t feel like I can walk by myself. I’m on high alert, looking around to make sure no one’s around me.”

Crime is looking stagnant for the Lincoln Park campus, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. These reports show that students have to face the challenge of safely maneuvering around campus while being on alert for any potential threat. 

Students shouldn’t take these little changes in crime rates lightly and need to be prepared at all times when living both on and off-campus. This is where students should use the available resources at their disposal to provide the best possible chance of avoiding any unwanted interactions.