Correction appended: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the location of the Oxbridge Neighborhood.
In the wake of recent violent crimes targeting University students, members of the University’s Greek community gathered last night in the Michigan Union Ballroom for a panel discussion on campus safety.
Among the panelists were officers from the University’s Department of Public Safety and the Ann Arbor Police Department, as well as members of the Michigan Student Assembly Student Safety Commission. Representatives from University Housing Security, Parking and Transportation Services and the Office of Community Relations also participated in the discussion.
Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones opened the forum with a recap of recent incidents, which include two indecent exposures in November in the Oxford housing area. There was also an armed robbery in December involving students in a sorority and this month an armed robbery involving a student in a fraternity.
The most common concern among students at the forum was the lack of lighting in Oxbridge Neighborhood — the area southeast of campus where the crimes took place.
Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations, spoke extensively on the issue of lighting and made it clear that there is no quick fix to the problem.
“For us to pursue additional lighting is not as simple and will not be as simple as submitting a petition, getting a couple of dollars to put up some poles, put some lights in them and flip the switch,” he said.
According to Kosteva, the city of Ann Arbor has had a moratorium on the installation of any additional street lights in the city for the past five to seven years.
“The reasons for this are directly financial,” Kosteva said. “Street lights are paid for by all the taxpayers in Ann Arbor, so just as you get an individual lighting bill at home, the city … gets a single lighting bill for the thousands if not tens of thousands of street lights that are across the community.”
Kosteva said it would cost the city anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 to install new lights, but the real problem emerges with the long-term cost of operation.
One possible solution to the lighting issue, Kosteva said, could be to make the Oxbridge Neighborhood a “special assessment district.”
According to Kosteva, this type of district would have clear boundaries around it, and individuals living in the area would have to pay a tax for an additional service — in this case, lighting.
The DPS and AAPD officers on the panel agreed that while street lighting is an issue, it isn’t easy to solve. They advocated that students use other resources available to them to ensure their safety.
The officers told students to call DPS any time, to know where the “Blue Light” telephones are located on campus and to use the shared-ride taxi service that is free for University-affiliated individuals. They also urged students to walk in groups and always let someone know when and where they’re walking.
Lt. Mark St. Amour of the AAPD said students are often easy victims in crimes.
“Ann Arbor is a very safe town, but (with) most home invasions, it’s an unlocked door, an unlocked window,” St. Amour said.
He added that alcohol consumption often multiplies a person’s risk of being a victim of certain crimes.
“Sexual assaults — a lot of them that I read— involve alcohol, so females, watch your alcohol,” St. Amour said. “The odds of you becoming a victim go up as the alcohol is ingested during the night. Two in the morning, three in the morning, when the bars get out, that’s a prime opportunity.”
In an interview last night, two members of Delta Phi Epsilon — a sorority located in the Oxbridge neighborhood — said they take cautionary measures before walking in the area at night.
LSA sophomore Julie Sherbill said that instead of walking around the neighborhood, she tries to take advantage of the University’s Safe Ride as frequently as possible. When Sherbill has to walk at night, though, she said she makes sure she’s never alone.
“I always make sure I have a buddy,” Sherbill said.
LSA sophomore Allison Sherman said she happened to be walking alone to her sorority about the same time the December armed robbery took place. She said the thought of how close she was to the robbery made her question how safe she was.
“That was definitely a wake-up call,” Sherman said. “Now every single time I’m walking home I get really freaked out when I see a car or person in the distance.”
— Daily News Editor Dylan Cinti contributed to this report.