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Committee discusses safety

Nicole Michels | Thursday, October 27, 2011

The safety of students and area residents was a chief concern of South Bend community representatives during the Campus/Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) meeting Wednesday.

Members discussed the upswing in crime and how the community can come together to address the problem.

Brian Coughlin, associate vice president for student affairs, said the University is concerned about the recent rise in crime.

“This community has done a great deal, and we’ve done a lot to talk about neighbor relations and a number of other things, but I think that it’s time that we start to focus on crime against students and crime in those neighborhoods,” he said.

Michael Carrington, a member of the St. Joseph County Alcoholic Beverage Board, said local law enforcement is working hard to address the problem.

While discussing how law enforcement officers are working to identify groups and individuals responsible for the criminal activity, CCAC members agreed students and local residents all need to be more cautious and aware of their surroundings.

“We can’t be a soft target, we have to be ever-vigilant and keep our guard up,” Carrington said. “People need to be careful, but the criminal justice system needs to respond and it needs to be a strong response.”

Student government has been working to develop a connection between the student body and local law enforcement, student body president Pat McCormick said.

This year, Notre Dame’s student government has organized a safety summit and an off-campus informal meet-and-greet between law enforcement officials and Notre Dame students.

McCormick said that he was pleased the CCAC meetings provide a venue for the community to work together to address pressing issues, like student safety.

“We had the opportunity to bring to the attention of the community that our top concern is the safety of students and trying to confront crime together, whether through particular action steps or trying to facilitate relationships between students and law enforcement,” McCormick said.

Members also examined the problem of students leasing off campus housing that is not sanctioned to be the residence of more than two unrelated students.

Director of South Bend Code Enforcement Catherine Toppel said many students are unaware of this rule.

“The problem they [students] run into is not knowing which properties are grandfathered and which aren’t,” she said. “One of the rules is that a lot of houses are under the rule that not more that two unrelated students can live in it.”

Toppel also said an association of landlords has drafted an ordinance, to be submitted sometime around January 2012, creating a landlord registry.

This registry would have a list of residences that can be used as student housing, and will be updated to reflect occupancy changes in those residences, she said.

Landlord Mark Kramer, of Kramer Properties, agreed that collaboration was required to remedy this problem.

“People sometimes ignore the restriction if they like the home or the area, but then they run the risk of being turned out in the middle of the year,” he said.

He suggested the creation of a list of houses eligible for student living, allowing students to check if their prospective house is on the list.

CCAC members also discussed plans for snow removal volunteer programs and the success of collaboration regarding the recent taxi ordinance.

CCAC, McCormick said, has been successful in addressing these issues affecting the Notre Dame community and the surrounding area because of the collaboration that it facilitates.

“These meetings give us the opportunity to learn and to be in conversation about issues that are pressing to the community and to bring to different stakeholders in the community the concerns of students as they relate to community life,” McCormick said.