Monday, November 19, 2007

University responds to shootings, murder

By Hyde Park Crime Watch
Last updated 11:55pm November 19

The University of Chicago held a press conference to field questions about the recent murder of
Amadou Cisse and associated crimes. The police believe that the murder resulted after an attempted robbery. The wallet was still on the victim, but there was evidence of a struggle, and his books had been dropped some distance away.

In response, the university stated that they will expand the number of officers patrolling between 55th and 64th after midnight. They will also add an extra van for late night ride service. Students have complained that the service is inadequate. The university will also add a police substation on the South campus in the Woodlawn neighborhood. One student complained that although the university emphasizes all of its safety measures, the university never educates students on just how dangerous the neighborhood can be.

No emergency notification after shootings
Many questions at the meeting surrounded the lack of any use of the emergency notification system to alert students that a crime had occurred. In particular, no warning was issued in the hour between the first shooting and the murder, or after the murder itself. One student asked "what is the use of an emergency notification system if it is not used until the morning after the crime?" The University sent an email at 10:40 AM, and a text message to phones at 11:13 AM.

Several questions reflected the lack of any notification for many crimes that occur. The university representative said that they are reviewing their policy. An audience member also questioned why a working emergency phone is not operating near the area of the murder (it has been disconnected during construction).

A personal comment
Would an emergency email after the first shooting have saved Amadou's life? Very likely. Amadou, like most other students, probably had his email open until he left his office that night. He would have seen a warning email in plenty of time, and would have known to take extra precautions. The university needs to be more vigilant about warning the community about ongoing crime.

In my own experience when I was mugged three years ago, the emergency phone I tried to use was not operational, and no notification was ever sent out about the crime. I only found out about how much crime was going on when I arrived at the police station to view a lineup, and a whole room was filled with people that looked just like me.

As a person who often works late at the University, I have been stuck several times with no transportation options late night during the summer or after 2 AM. Several times I have had to convince the 2AM bus to take me home rather than going off duty. While the University police offers umbrella service, I think many people, including myself, are hesitant to ask a police officer to follow them while they walk 30 minutes to their home.

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