HSC sees boost in crime activity

By on October 21, 2008

By Dennis O’Neil

Oct. 6. A purse grab robbery of a University of Louisville employee was attempted at the corner of Preston Street and Broadway.
Oct. 9. A backpack grab robbery was attempted against U of L students at the Long John’s Silvers restaurant also at Preston and Broadway on.
Safety bulletins were issued to the U of L community regarding both of these incidents, which happened near the Health Sciences Campus, by the Department of Public Safety. Though the incidents happened off campus, many feel safety concerns on HSC extend far beyond Preston and Broadway.
“Safety on HSC is one of those things that can always be improved,” Student Government Association President Rudy Spencer said. “We have asked students to be more vocal about their concerns. I know I received some e-mails last year from students saying that they did not feel safe on that campus.”
“I think we are often overlooked down here,” said first year medical student Jennifer Howard. “I know that we did a safety walk last fall and addressed some issues with lighting and emergency poles that didn’t work, but I’m not sure if any of those issues got addressed.”
According to DPS Major Kenny Brown, a 24/7 presence is maintained by university police on HSC. He said several officers are assigned strictly to the campus so they know it as well as possible. With issues like lighting and emergency poles, Brown said DPS often participates on the safety walks offered by SGA that Howard referred to.
“As our officers make the rounds, they are always looking at doors and lighting and if something isn’t functioning properly, we will call the physical plant and see if they can fix it,” Brown said.
Some students, however, feel there are many safety issues left to still be addressed at HSC.
Fourth year nursing student Ryan Kuyers said, because of clinicals and rotations, many medical students have to be on campus at all times of the day or night. He also said this requires greater attention from DPS in the evenings and through the night.
Kuyers, who is also student president of the School of Nursing, said the HSC student government is trying to improve lighting around campus and encourages students to stay in groups as much as possible when walking at night. The number of emergency phones on campus was one area Kuyers said needed to improve.
“Currently, I think there maybe only one or two emergency phones on our campus and these are located in obscure places between buildings,” Kuyers said. “It never hurts to have DPS play a more active role.”
According to third year medical student Heather Dettro Felton, parking is another issue that influences campus safety. She said the parking situation on HSC often forces students to park several blocks away in the Haymarket and Liberty lots. There is a shuttle service offered on HSC between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. as well as evening hours of 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
But because of the erratic hours of many HSC students, the shuttle isn’t being offered when many of them are on campus. Dettro Felton said students are encouraged to take advantage of the DPS escort service, but that students would probably feel safer if they had more options.
“If U of L wants to make safety a top priority, then they need to look into options where students can park closer to campus,” Dettro Felton said. “Or pay to have a 24-hour shuttle service.”
Kuyers said the HSC student government has helped to locate secured parking for medical residents and nursing students that are on night rotations. According to Medical school student council president Heather Lee, they are currently pushing for an improved shuttle service.
Spencer said he feels the setting of HSC, so close to downtown in what he calls “an area of high crime,” could be the draw for a lot of the safety issues that students are experiencing.
Third year medical student Jason Caldwell said he does see some shady characters around campus.
“There really isn’t much you can do to keep people from asking you for change,” Caldwell said. “It is just something that comes from being down town, as it is with any major city.”
Lee echoed this sentiment, saying she doesn’t believe an urban community presents an inherent safety risk, but the university needs to educate its students on safety issues.
“It is important to take appropriate safety precautions as a university,” Lee said, who added that they are starting a self defense class for medical students.
To Kuyers, one key to safety is for students to be mindful of their surroundings.
“We promote sticking in groups at night, utilizing security escorts,” Kuyers said. “And if you don’t feel safe, then don’t go there.” 
For more information on campus safety, visit www.louisville.edu/police/.

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