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Summit addresses off campus safety

John Cameron | Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Members of the South Bend community gathered with leaders from the University, student government, the Prosecutor’s Office and law enforcement at the Robinson Community Learning Center. Tuesday for the second annual Northeast Neighborhood Safety Summit. 
After a brief introduction by Tim Sexton, associate vice president for Public Affairs at the University, student body president Catherine Soler spoke about what student government has been doing to deal with off-campus issues and how students have responded.
“Our focus … has been off-campus safety and community relations,” Soler said. 
Soler said they have a good neighbor guide, have been meeting with campus and South Bend police and have a website, [email protected]
Also citing the forum with ResLife and the presentation by attorney C.L. Lindsay, Soler said things have improved with regards to students and off-campus problems since the implementation of the recent programming.
“In our updates with police … we’ve been getting good reports about students being good neighbors,” she said.
Offering advice on how students and South Bend residents alike can improve their personal security, Notre Dame Security Police Officer Keri Kei Shibata was next to speak. Shibata said a lot of things people can do seem like common sense but are often looked over.
“Be aware of crime problems and other neighborhood concerns [and] communicate concerns to police,” she said.
Shibata said residents should avoid giving potential criminals access to unsecured entrances to homes or clear views of expensive items in cars. 
“Make your property a harder target,” she said.
Shibata also reminded residents to be cautious of people they do not know, to be proactive about possible threats, become acquainted and work with neighbors and taking greater ownership and involvement in the community.
“Claim the neighborhood as your own. It’s ours, not the criminals’ ,” she said.
Next, Sgt. Pat Hechlinski spoke about what police are offering citizens both in traditional law enforcement as well as spreading information and taking advantage of both civilian and interdepartmental cooperative efforts.
“One thing we like to do is make you aware of the crime statistics so the residents can see what’s going on,” he said. 
Hechlinski said efforts to keep residents informed are aided by both the neighborhood watch program and the distribution of information regarding incidents with students as victims by student government.
He said it was important that all groups involved in the issue continue to collaborate. 
“Keeping an open dialogue is a great problem-solver for us,” he said.
While the previous speakers concentrated on how crime can be prevented, County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak next spoke about what his office has been doing to deal with offenders once prevention has failed and where students can reduce problems with police.
“[Police and prosecutor work] is all pretty reactive, the damage has been done,” he said. “We try to hold people accountable.”
After an update on the case of the carjacking of Holy Cross students, Dvorak spoke about the crackdown on underage drinking at the beginning of the year.
“This has been a very significant issues,” he said. “It has less to do with people under 21 consuming alcoholic beverages than it does about safety.” 
Dvorak said while he understands the relatively minor nature of alcohol offenses, he feels that students need to recognize that the consequences are still serious.
“I’m not unsympathetic,” he said. “It’s a crime, and I don’t think students understand it’s not just an infraction.”
Dvorak said he believed student cooperation has helped cause a shift back from arrests to ticketing and reminded students to cooperate with law enforcement during an incident.
“I think they’ve dialed down on underage drinking,” he said. “It’s still a crime, and they’ll use their discretion.”