At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign there has been an increase in campus crime rates. The crime reports and statistics from 2007 to 2009 show an increasing number of crimes, from minor theft to severe assault (U of I Campus Safety). In addition, the numbers of Sex Offenses are still high and the number of Aggravated Assault/Battery charges is increasing since 2007. The number of robberies has somewhat increased over the years as well (Campus Safety). The safety situation at the campus was analyzed by evaluating the location and time of the crimes and services already available to reduce the crime rate (e.g. emergency phones). Then a survey of the students was undertaken to evaluate the situation from their point of view. What was found was that there was a deficiency not only in the services already available to reduce the crime but there was also lack of information among students.
LOCATIONS OF HIGHEST CRIME DENSITY
There is a specific area of the campus where most of the crimes are occurring but it is the area of the campus with the least safety resources; and also some resources that are available are also not being utilized due to lack of knowledge. That area is a rectangle from Sixth Street to Oak Street and University to Kirby (U of I ePhone Locations). According to the map of the location of crimes, this rectangle is the key area in which the majority of crimes happen (U of I Crime and Statistics). This is also area is where the majority of student apartments are located, and also where there is the least amount of street lighting and pedestrian traffic at night. These factors combined makes this a very unsafe place and students feel ill at ease when walking through this area to their homes. There is another highlighted area on map of location of crimes that demonstrates where a majority of crimes happen. It is the area west of Wright Street between Armory and University. This area is where many apartment buildings are located and there are very few emergency phones (U of I Crime and Statistics). Again, an area with a high density of crime left unguarded.
CURRENTLY AVAILABLE SAFETY RESOURCES
One of the main safety resources currently is the blue emergency phones. There are currently 87 phones spread throughout Champaign and Urbana near campus buildings, with the majority around the main quad. On the other hand, there are several areas on or near campus where these phones are few and far between, and unfortunately these areas are ones where many students live and work every day (U of I ePhone Location). Students are able to have that sense of security when they are near the middle of campus and their classroom buildings, but when it is past midnight and they have to walk home in the dark to their apartments or dormitories, there are fewer phones and therefore a less safe situation is created.
The phones are directly connected to the University Police Department and can be used in any type of emergency. The reason for blue color in design, according to the staff in Code Blue Corporation (2000), is that the integration of vivid blue strobe and area light forms a favorable perception that the institution has taken a proactive stance in protecting the general public as they walk about the campus or facility (Smetana).
Contrary to most people’s impression that the blue emergency phone is a public product, the blue safety phone system was actually started and developed by a corporation called “Code Blue.” The original blue emergency phone (Code Blue I) came from the design project at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 1989. The founder of Code Blue was asked by University of Illinois at Chicago to add a communications device to the housing areas to create an emergency/assistance unit. Through a long and evolving design and development process, Code Blue created the blue emergency phone. Now Code Blue has become the premier Interactive Voice Communication Systems (IVCS) manufacturer. After the first installation at UIC, these phones have been installed in thousands of places throughout United States and Canada. Emergency phones are mostly seen at university and college campuses, hospitals, corporate campuses, cities and municipalities, parking facilities, parks, airports and shopping centers.
Another, less well known safety resource available to students is Safe Rides and Safe Walks but many students feel uneducated and unfamiliar with these services, and also report that they have been unreliable in the past.
Current students at the University of Illinois were surveyed to understand how the crime rate affects them and also to learn how safe students feel. Most students either know someone who has been a victim of theft, or have been a victim of theft themselves, and many know someone who was assaulted in some way. Most students admitted to walking alone at night even though three quarters of them do not know how the emergency phones work. Students put themselves in danger while walking alone in the dark. Learning the locations and how to operate an emergency phone would be useful, even life-saving, to the students in the event of an emergency but survey results show that they are unfamiliar with how the emergency phones work, and that they highly underestimate how many phones the campus actually has to offer them. This lack of education among students about the resources available to them is one the main reasons for the increasing trend of campus accidents and crimes. There must be a clear understanding of the use and benefits of the emergency phones on the campus among them. This can be implemented through educational programs.
There are two main reasons for the increasing trend in crime rates on the University of Illinois campus. First, is the lack of the main safety resource, the blue emergency phone, in the areas of most need. Second, is the lack of education among students about the resources available to them as well as the unreliability of the some of the resources in the past. The crime rates at the University of Illinois have shown an overall increasing trend. Increasing the number of phones may be helpful in deterring the number of crimes that are occurring. Increasing student awareness through programs and pamphlets may also be another way to help decrease the crime rate.