The University of Michigan is mostly vacant now that the majority of students have gone home due to the push from University Housing to leave campus. Two weeks ago, local police were notified of an armed person in a home on the 400 block of North State Street in Ann Arbor. The situation was resolved as the suspect was taken into custody.
Despite the armed person incident, Melissa Overton, chief of the Division of Public Safety and Security, said she does not expect the decreased number of people to result in increased crime or looting.
For one, Overton said the number of workers who remain at the University, such as those working at Michigan Medicine along with other essential staff, is no different than during University breaks.
“The vacant campus gives us the opportunity to get in the buildings more frequently, and if there are people who aren’t supposed to be around we get more calls as well,” Overton said. “We don’t expect any influx of crime at all, and the quiet makes it easier for us to know who belongs and who doesn’t.”
Sergeant Corey Mills, who is in charge of the community engagement unit for the Ann Arbor Police Department, also said calls for service have gone down. He said assault numbers, which include both simple and domestic assaults, have not changed and may have even decreased.
“We attribute the decrease in calls from not many people being on the road, which lessens traffic crashes as well as minor offenses such as trespassing,” Mills said. “To be expected, we’re not getting many property claims either, simply because larceny and breaking into homes can’t happen when everyone is home and overall, general calls for service have been lowered.”
Similarly, some students who chose to remain on campus, such as Taubman sophomore Madhumita Krishnan said she feels safer as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines about coronavirus influences her to stay inside more. Because her apartment has proper security systems, Krishnan said she doesn’t feel any more in danger than before.
Additionally, Krishnan said she thinks most empty apartments do not have what potential looters might want to take.
“At this point, I don’t think that stealing things like furniture or electronics is useful because people aren’t out to buy it right now,” Krishnan said. “I’d think they’d want food, and because many people cleared out their apartments, and there’s probably no food, there’s nothing for them to steal.”
Business senior Gabrielle de Coster said she hasn’t noticed a difference in crime levels due to social distancing, as she spends her time either walking in Nichols Arboretum or isolating herself in her apartment. De Coster said she believes staying indoors by herself helps keep her safe from possible crime in the area.
“Honestly if it weren’t for the emergency alert on my phone, I would have had no idea about the (armed person) because I was fully quarantined waiting for my tests results for COVID-19,” de Coster said. “I also live over by Tappan and Hill, so it doesn’t feel as desolate or more dangerous in comparison to areas with mostly undergraduate students, such as White Street.”
Even though the incident with the armed individual happened just a block from where he lives, Engineering junior Sahil Saini said he feels safe. He said he has been taught to be well-prepared for any circumstances of looting or crime and doesn’t feel there is a need to move off-campus.
“I mean this is the stuff I grew up with, but everything in my car is in my trunk, because I have a trunk cover, and even if I need to leave stuff in my car, it goes under a blanket or inside a bag or hidden somewhere,” Saini said. “I check the front door a couple times a day because I’m living with subletters now as all my roommates moved out, but I can honestly say I would walk around Kerrytown with my laptop and feel safe.”
According to Overton, in any case of possible crime, DPSS covers security for housing, the museums and the hospital. She said everyone is working hard to ensure those who remain on campus are safe.
She also urged community members to take precautions for their own safety as well.
“Be aware of your surroundings, and make sure to lock your doors if you’re the only ones working in the office,” Overton said. “And make sure to call if you see anybody who doesn’t belong in the area.”
Mills said everyone in the city should abide by the governor’s orders to stay home, including students.
“Students often want to still congregate in four or five groups of people, and we’ve caught a couple kids playing beer pong and we have to remind them they are in violation … in order to stop the spread and flatten the curve out,” Mills said. “To my knowledge, we have not issued any violations, but we have had to give out warnings and have ordered people to go home and disperse.”
Contributor Cheryn Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org