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Ask for more to reduce crime

| Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just prior to the kickoff of Saturday’s devastating loss to Arizona State, students received the following email:

“Around 2 a.m. Saturday morning a Notre Dame student was approached by three men in a silver sedan on Notre Dame Avenue between the Morris Inn and Holy Cross Drive.  One of the men got out of the vehicle and instructed the student to come with them.  They demanded money and took the student to a gas station and a grocery store so he could get cash for them.  They then brought the student back to campus.  No gun was seen, but it was implied that at least one of the three men had a gun.”

The email concluded with brief physical descriptions of the three men, referrals to Notre Dame’s “Off Campus Connector” and Security Police websites for “further information about safety on and off campus” and a reminder that 9-1-1 exists.

Since Tuesday the facts of that case have been called into question, but there is no question that NDSP must change the way it reports crimes against Notre Dame students and the way it cooperates with the city of South Bend to reduce them.

In late September, three Notre Dame freshmen were held at gunpoint while walking back from an off-campus party. Golden Dome in sight, they handed over their iPhones and cash to two men pointing guns at their heads. Two weekends later, a Holy Cross student was shot in the foot and the head outside of a house in the 600 block of Notre Dame Avenue, exactly one mile from Main Circle.

Notre Dame Security Police correctly handed both cases over to the South Bend Police Department. What I find unacceptable is that NDSP then neglected to report either of these incidents to on-campus students, simply because they occurred outside of their jurisdiction. The police reports were emailed only to off-campus students, a puzzling fact given that all three victims of the September armed robbery lived on campus.

This divide between who receives what police reports reflects a false picture. Dozens of cabs line up at Main Circle every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night of the school year, charging a student rate to drive groups of people off campus to student houses and bars hosting student nights. I personally live on campus, and I went off campus two nights last weekend. For all we say about a “Notre Dame bubble,” the jurisdictional boundary between on and off campus between 10 p.m and 4 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights is immaterial. Taking a ‘not on campus, not our problem’ approach to informing students is misguided and potentially dangerous to Notre Dame students.

Notre Dame is not shy about reporting other off-campus threats. Last Friday night, every single student received a nearly 600-word email from Fr. John Jenkins detailing Notre Dame’s response to Ebola. There have been four Ebola cases in the entire United States since September. Over roughly the same time period, there have been two gun-at-head incidents within eight blocks of campus. According South Bend City Councilman Dr. Fred Ferlic (ND ’68), quoted in Oct. 16 WNDU story, there have been at least eight gun-at-head incidents within two blocks of the Notre Dame campus since October 2013.

We can’t be content with changing only the way in which crime information is reported to students. An uptick in crime in the areas most regularly travelled by Notre Dame students means the University has more of a responsibility than ever to work alongside the city to correct the problem. Peer institutions have given us good potential models to follow. Yale and Brown both use cash transfers to their cities to pay for police and security. The University of Chicago staffs a 4.2 square-mile area around its campus with police to ensure the safety of students and faculty who live in the area. And the Duke University Police Department has an overlapping jurisdiction with the Durham Police to help better patrol off-campus areas where students spend their social hours.

Notre Dame could pursue any one or a combination of these options for about one percent of what it plans to spend on expanding our football stadium, and simultaneously do a great service to its students and the surrounding community. But it should act very soon. Fr. Jenkins assured us in his statement on Ebola, “We are prepared and committed to the safety of all who live, work, study and teach at Notre Dame.” I take him at his word and look forward to the University’s swift response to this much nearer threat.

Alex Caton is a senior political science major in the one and only St. Edward’s Hall. He welcomes commentary ar acaton@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

About Alex Caton

Alex is a junior political science major living in the caves and ditches of St. Edward's Hall. He has written for the Viewpoint section since spring 2013

Contact Alex
  • 2xEIC

    This columnist is fantastic. He is doing a great job of holding the ND’s administration’s feet to the fire.

  • Rebecca B

    Alex, A few thoughts.

    From the University’s “public affairs” department: “The University of Notre Dame has a long history of lending intellectual, financial, and service assistance to the community. But, in June 2009, with local governments facing enormous and unforeseen budget shortfalls, Notre Dame ushered in a new, historic, and long-term commitment to its neighbors by announcing voluntary annual contributions to the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, the Town of Roseland, and to St. Joseph County. In total, Notre Dame will contribute $5.5 million over a 10-year period, with South Bend receiving $3.025 million, St. Joseph County $1.87 million, Mishawaka $550,000, and Roseland $55,000.” source, http://publicaffairs.nd.edu/civic-leadership/5-5m-economic-initiative/

    So, the University does make direct payments to local governments for things like police. Which is in addition to the tax dollars received from and jobs supported by the $204 million spent annually in the local economy by visitors to the University as well as the $120 million spent annually by students in the local economy (again, both figures and language explaining the figures provided by the University, http://impact.nd.edu).

    The point?

    The University already sees itself as a cash piñata for the Non-Territory that surrounds it. From the University’s perspective: ‘Why should we give more?’

    Furthermore, to the world outside Notre Dame – which doesn’t mean South Bend but, rather, as you, Alex, very astutely see, the Dukes and Yales and University of Chicagos of the world, in other words, Notre Dame’s PEERS – the University is walking the same fine line as its Peers between treating the “kids” like both “kids” and “adults”, based upon, of course, how our University defines what it means to be a “kid” and what it means to be an “adult”. In other words, infantilizing when it serves the University’s mission – parietals; not beginning a major course of study until sophomore year; kabuki theatre “disciplinary” “hearings”; the same mind-numbing chants in the Stadium droned at the exact same time every game over and over, Over and Over, OVER AND OVER again – or empowering with “real-world lessons” about “adulthood” – “sorry, it’s your fault you decided to go to a study abroad program that offers no advanced courses in your major, you won’t finish that major on time”, “you want an officially recognized, budgeted, independent LGBTQ organization? go someplace else”, “you want disciplinary hearings based on centuries-old established judicial procedures? go someplace else”. (As an aside: this is one of the aces in the hole the University can always play {to both students and faculty, btw}: “Maybe you WOULD BE happier at {fill in name of top 10 academic institution}.”).

    Lastly, Alex: While the University doesn’t like to use this direct, specific language publicly, there are a few things it knows that it chooses not tell students clearly and succinctly. The biggest? Except for Grangerland, the Triangle, a few isolated pockets near the River, and other University-backed areas/initiatives, Non-Notre Dame is a poor, depressed, bitter, immobilized territory. That is not “yesterday’s story”. It. Is. NOW. There STILL exists a lot of resentment in the “community” toward Notre Dame, even with all the money the University “contributes” directly and indirectly to the local area: the University is viewed as an imperial power, as evidenced by the hired chariots (cabs) piloted by local plebes (cabbies) slicing through the ghettos (neighborhoods) shuttling the scions and heirs (students) from one pre-orgy bacchanalia (party, club) to the actual orgy afterwards (apartment, townhouse, house, dorm {vacant, unlocked storage room in the ACC?}). Furthermore, the University knows, on balance, that the “average” Notre Dame student is a decent human being, trusting, naive, and not very experienced in the world, who grew up, for the most part, in a fairly sheltered, protected, and proscribed environment (e.g., service projects through pre-screened programs, to mitigate dangerous interactions). In other words, pretty lily-white (including, as a whole, the various levels of “administration” {hired, elected, and/or chosen} that actually run the University). And dropping those pretty lily-whites down in the middle of ghetto is a potential recipe for a real disaster.

    “But why ‘real disaster’”?

    Good question, Alex. Here’s the point:

    Without sounding insensitive, one or two “incidents” a year, short of a rape, murder, or serious bodily injury, from the University’s perspective, one or two of these “incidents” a year instigated by a NON-UNIVERSITY-CONNECTED SOURCE brings a certain sigh of relief – ‘Is that all we have to deal with?’

    And the University can create websites and offer “awareness” & “immersion” seminars, provide “timely” crime reports, talk about how much it both loves being a “partner” in & with the local “community” while also providing a “safe environment” for its “students”. And all the while its Peers, who are dealing with the same “college adjustment” and “kids to adults” issues, can nod at the University and say “We applaud all you’re doing” as they applaud themselves…

    It is all a big shell game, gang, this is what it’s all about. To be blunt:

    When you have an institution, in this case a university, that is a PRIVATE institution, expect that institution to run its affairs in one way and one way only: for the benefit of its perpetuation. Period. Beholden to the rules, procedures, mores, and values established to ensure it answers to only itself as it ensures its perpetuation. Period. Members of that institution are useful, are “valuable” only insofar as they exist to perpetuate the institution itself.


    For that institution, that university, Everything, EVERY-THING else is related to this one “mission”, goal, purpose: perpetuation.

    And anything, ANY-THING that threatens that perpetuation is ridiculed, shunned, demonized, dismissed, neutralized, ignored, and/or destroyed.


    And guess what? Just like its PEER INSTITUTIONS, Notre Dame is no different.

    Crime statistics and responses to alleged crimes? Again, when no major bodily harm is a result (or when criminal negligence of the institution can’t be proven), both are used by the institution to show parents AND other peer institutions how “diligent” and “thoughtful” it is in establishing a “safe environment”.


    Welcome To Adulthood, Alex. It IS a big scary place. In many, Many, MANY ways. More than you might presently realize.

    • Rebecca B

      Seems like the first web-link has been “disabled”. Try this one: http://publicaffairs.nd.edu/civic-leadership/5-5m-economic-initiative/

    • 2xEIC

      The $5.5 million have nothing to do with any interest Notre Dame has in promoting public safety or reducing crime. The $5.5 million is a payoff for all the overtime required to direct traffic on football weekends. The local towns are mad that the largest property owner and biggest burden on public resources doesn’t have to pay taxes. The paltry kickback from Notre Dame is to get the towns off its back.

      And basic reporting of correct crime stats is what real police forces do. Reporting crime from the areas directly surrounding campus would require very little effort or expense by the University and would be the right thing to do. (Pushing NDSP Keystone Cops to get involved off campus, that’s a bad idea. They are barely competent enough to enforce parking tickets).

      The University is under no obligation to listen to Alex’s requests but to dismiss him with your arrogant attitude of “don’t like it? leave” is wrong. The students at Notre Dame have every right to point out areas they think are wrong and push for change. The University will ignore it and probably will — but that doesn’t make the University right or Alex wrong.

      Based on your “shut up and do what your told attitude” I have to assume you are part of the Notre Dame administration.

      • Rebecca B

        If, Madam or Sir, you read my entire response (albeit lengthy, and my apologies for that), you’ll glean that not only am I not “part of the Notre Dame administration” but, rather, someone who is highly critical of the “Notre Dame administration”. Furthermore, in regards to “The students at Notre Dame have every right to point out areas they think are wrong and push for change”, that is true. What is true, and this is also reflective of my stance/position vis-a-vis the University, is that in response to any such “push”, the University will pat those students on the head, commend them for their passionate and reasoned argument, then send them off to bed with a cookie and a glass of water like a precocious child. Is that insulting to students? Of course it is, which is my point in using it as an example. Furthermore, it doesn’t make students “wrong” in asking for “change”. It’s what expected. But know going in what the University’s response will be: Unless the “change” suggested will result in a real and tangible benefit to the University as an institution, an institution that is VERY COGNIZANT of how ITS peers view it as well as being quite adept at letting all who are members of its “community” know how “lucky” they are to be members of the community, if the proposed “change” doesn’t contribute to the preservation and perpetuation of the University (to itself and to the minds of its peers), then that “change” will be filed away unacted upon along with the THOUSANDS of other changes suggested by students over the years. Intelligent, workable, sensible changes………Ms. or Mr. 2xEIC, we’re working the same side of the street here. Your methods, like your rhetoric, are not the same as mine. This is as it should be. Remember: any institution faced with credible opposition employs tactics to defeat that opposition, one tactic being dividing the opposition and turning those divided parts against each other. Let’s not let that happen, okay? 🙂

        • 2xEIC

          Alex has publically called out the University for a failure to care about real student safety and you mock him and tell him “welcome to adulthood. It’s a big scary place.” You seem to have the same disdain and condescending attitude toward students that Notre Dame has.

          • Rebecca B

            Do you not understand that I am agreeing with Alex? That I am not being condescending towards him? That me PRETENDING to be a voice of the “powers that be” is a form of parody of those “powers that be”?

            If I’m still not making those points clear, then my apologies.

            Have a nice night.