Vernon Repeatedly Vandalized

Neighborhood Watch - City of Champaign

Rylee McDonal ~ Copy Editor

Since the beginning of  the 2021-2022 school year, Vernon Street residents have been experiencing a bevy of criminal activity. The increase in crime  has prompted university officials, including the chief of campus security,  to lead a dialogue on campus safety.

Tyler Flaherty, ‘22, while on his way home on Feb. 2, witnessed three men in the Vernon Street gravel lot. “I thought they were drunk college students,” Flaherty said, “I didn’t pay much attention to them until I witnessed two of them cross the street.”

“The truck pulled out as the second man crossed the street. They began to walk towards me and tried to get me to stop.”

“The second I saw the gun and mask, I stopped.” He said. They then asked for whatever cash he had in his wallet while still holding the guns to his head. After they got the money from him, they all got into the car and left.

Lynchburg Police Department was on the scene after the muggers had left. It was then that they learned that they had not only held Flaherty at gunpoint, but had also been breaking into unlocked cars.

On Sunday, Feb. 6, campus officials, led by BJ Keefer, director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development discussed the incident and what it means for the university.

Esteban Soto, chief of Campus Security, gave a summary of the incident, informing all present of what actually happened that night, then followed up with the practices students can perform to make the campus safer.

“I’d like to say that, obviously, the university is not immune to crime, but we are considerably safer on campus than the surrounding areas of the city”, Soto began. “I will say, however, that providing security to the Southside of campus is a little more challenging than the traditional residential structures.”

Soto stated that the difficulty in providing campus security to the Southside is due to the fact that the number of houses the university owns is so spread out. 

As well, Soto said that a practice that is employed by campus security is community involvement. “We engage with the university community and foster those relationships.” Soto stated as well that they improve communication through the Campus Safety Security newsletter, which is released monthly.

“Those newsletters typically contain protection measures, and other information that is going on campus relative to security.” Soto also said that the motivating and educating of students to practice safety measures is also important. “Don’t walk alone at night, walk all doors and windows on the first floor, lock your car doors and don’t leave valuables in plain sight. As well, utilize the escort service that the Campus Security Safety Department provides.”

When it comes to the improvement of campus security, Soto stated that they are working with other departments, on and off campus, to improve the campus. 

However, Tanner Wynne, president of Phi Kappa Tau, shared two past security concerns. “I have known two of my friends that have had their cars broken into behind our residence location.” 

Wynne said, “I know that there was some discussion about cameras, and making sure there are cameras in different campus locations. But one thing I would like to see are cameras placed in parking lots. As I said, I know of two instances where cars were broken into and feel as though we could have prevented that.”

If you have security concerns on campus, please contact Campus Safety and Security at 434.544.8100 (Non-emergency) or  434.544.5555 or 911 (Emergency).

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