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Coalition discusses public safety, relations

Sam Stryker | Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) discussed student safety and relations between students and community members during a Wednesday meeting at Notre Dame’s downtown offices.

CCAC is made up of representatives from Notre Dame, Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s, representatives from South Bend city offices and agencies and other South Bend residents.

Student body president Catherine Soler said student government has been working to improve relations with the community with the revamping of the Off-Campus Council.

“We have revamped it to be more community friendly. What we’re going to do is have at least six off-campus students be neighborhood ambassadors,” she said. “[They will] be responsible for a certain area in the community where students live. Their main job will be to communicate.”

Soler also said student government is looking to build the relationship between students and local business through the Students for South Bend Discount Program.

“We’re entering phase two. We have 35 participants now,” she said. “We’re trying to get a little more and really push the promotions.”

South Bend resident Matt Costello said the relationship between students living off-campus and the community remains strong.

“Things are still going really well in terms of partying and the peaceful neighborhood,” he said.

Mark Kramer of Kramer Properties voiced concerns of student safety for those who make the decision to live off-campus.

“I’ve got a concern that we’ve got cases involving students in Irish Row held at gunpoint. That’s a real concern. We’re talking about safety,” he said. “When you read and hear about that, that is scary. I just wonder what you can do to prevent that.”

Capt. Robert Hammer of the South Bend Police Department said students need to be vigilant when they spend time off campus.

“The biggest message to everyone, especially students, is they pay attention to security, locking doors and leaving lights on,” he said. “Know the area you are in, and don’t go out alone.”

Hammer said students are often not accustomed to living in areas with safety issues such as South Bend.

“There are a lot of things kids haven’t been exposed to that are in the environment they are now living in,” Hammer said.

Tim Sexton, Notre Dame’s Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs, said the University is working to create a system of off-campus safety.

“We’ve been trying to grow a neighborhood watch program.

We’re hoping that there is reinforcement that we are paying attention,” he said. “We want things to change.”

Sexton said students must continue to be alert in their time off-campus.

“I think there is awareness you need to take responsibility for,” he said.

The Coalition discussed the issue of students walking back to campus instead of taking a taxicab. The group found this was a contributor to off-campus safety issues.

Carolina Arroyo, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies in Notre Dame’s political science department, said cabs sometimes overcharge students, deterring them from taking a taxi back to campus.

“If students can take a cab and know they won’t get overcharged, I think that will help the safety issue,” she said.

City Council Member Buddy Kirsits said CCAC would strive to work toward a secure community.

“The goal of this group is safety. It’s about making students and residents safe,” he said.

CCAC’s next meeting will be January 26.