Violent crime is an unfortunate but common occurrence of schools based in big cities. But how is it mitigated? The preponderance of students claim to feel very uneasy walking around campus after dark, and say that services to accommodate this, like Safe Ride, are understaffed, and that the presence of security doesn’t do much of anything to abate their worries. In the past few weeks, many students have had cause to question Case Western Reserve University’s efforts to protect the safety of their students.
Two armed robberies within the campus vicinity have been the subject of much talk, and one of the incidents in particular, for the fact that it happened very close to home. In fact, it happened right outside of a student’s home; they were robbed as they were attempting to enter House 7 of The Village at 115th.
The victim, who has chosen to remain anonymous, agreed to talk to The Observer about their experience, and their thoughts regarding on-campus safety. “I was driving home on Saturday night. I parked my car … about a five minute walk from my dorm. As soon as I parked I noticed three men walking down the street in the opposite direction. They kept turning around to glance at me which immediately concerned me. [Regardless,] I just left my car … Apparently they had turned around and started following me, which they continued doing the entire walk over to my dorm, past several groups of people—but I was unaware.”
“Finally as I get to House 7 and swipe my key, my shoulder gets tapped and I turn around to a gun pointed at my chest,” the student continued. “They started demanding my keys from me, but I was completely distracted by the gun. I was trying to figure out if it was even real … It took me a few seconds to react, and I just said ‘I’m poor too.’ They started digging their hands into my pockets, emptied them and ran towards my car. [The street was suddenly empty by the time] I started running to Wade, and immediately 115th began filling up again, like there was a moment of silence just long enough for them to take my things and leave.”
The student followed up with the information about their car: “My car was eventually found after the perpetrators had gotten into an accident and abandoned the car.” They added that the offenders tried to tint the windows, presumably to prevent identification. “None of the individuals who stole the vehicle have been found, but the detective is still continuing the investigation. I believe we are currently waiting for lab results of some fingerprint samples that were taken from the vehicle.” They added: “There was a fourth unidentified woman who drove the car around for a while and was caught on tape.”
Our interviewee expressed the state of their mental health after the incident as “relatively good.” They explained, “I spent a lot of my childhood in poor areas, so crime was common. At the very least, I got used to it enough to be unfazed. For a few days I had a bit of anxiety, but I would say I was mostly angry. I was angry I had been set so far behind, which took about a week’s worth of calls, forms, pick ups, waits, etc., to get my life back in order. I was angry they were using my property as their own … they managed to buy Rally’s at two different locations in the time it took me to cancel my card.”
The student also emphasized the fact that they do not feel secure living on the edge of campus anymore, however housing accommodation for them was quickly taken care of. Additionally, CWRU has covered the parking and cost of towing for their vehicle.
Following the incident, the student expressed that CWRU has been mostly helpful. However, the initial dispatcher was dismissive of the evidence provided at the beginning. “I told them where the robbers had used my debit card and they just told me to cancel it. Even after I tried to explain, they didn’t seem to see why it was relevant. Eventually they said they’d make a note of it. I did not leave that call happy, especially since one of the officers told me to contact that number if my card was used or my phone had location information.” In the end, the detective kept contact with the student providing regular updates, each in hopes that the forensics team will find matching prints.
The student also remarked on the flaws in campus security, saying, “It always feels like increased security measures are temporary responses to criticism. Very disappointing.”
Shortly after the night of this incident, President Eric Kaler released a statement detailing CWRU’s intentions to tackle increased threats to student safety. “If [CWRU] actually commits to the changes, then they will be good measures. The problem is just consistency from the school,” the student responded. “There needs to be [a] security presence every minute that it’s dark out. And the little car [stationed outside Nobby’s Ballpark] isn’t enough. I doubt, even if security does increase, that it will stay like that for very long. [CWRU] just sees it as an expense they can’t spare.”
As previously stated, President Kaler detailed CWRU’s plans to improve safety on campus in a school-wide email, which include “doubling the number of Safe Ride vehicles to reduce wait times,” “significantly increasing overnight patrol staffing,” “night-time staffing on Northside security booths” and “safety sessions for schools and other units.” These measures sound reasonable, but their follow-through and success is still a question of time.
They also beg the question: how much responsibility is on students to safeguard their well-being and possessions when simply navigating campus? Many will tell you that beyond walking in groups—and short of carrying weapons—there is no obvious remedy in their capacity. The extent to which they are expected to protect themselves is, to many students, unreasonable. But how far can the responsibility of the safety of students and staff on an urban campus extend for university administration, until it’s simply a matter-of-fact of living in a metropolitan area?
When asked for comment, the university stated, “The safety of our campus community is always Case Western Reserve’s highest priority. We increased evening patrols this week, and are also evaluating additional measures we can take to help protect our students, faculty and staff.” They’ve also made it a point to direct community members to the “Safety on Campus” page of CWRU’s website, which details measures and services individuals can take to protect themselves. The University Circle Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
In the end, our student interviewee offered a few final safety recommendations for students who feel unsafe on campus: “Never walk alone at night. Walk with friends, or use one of the campus resources to watch you walk in through your door. Don’t try to fight back, just hand over what you have immediately and be safe.”