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Students urged to be proactive with safety

Amanda Gray | Friday, August 26, 2011

As the school year begins, student government and the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) advised students to protect themselves while off campus this year by proactively using safety resources and learning about local policies.

“The advice I give to off-campus students is no different than the advice I give to those who live in the neighborhood year-round,” Sgt. Patrick Hechlinski said. “If you see something suspicious, call the police. I’ve noticed apprehension in students for calling us, but we can come out and check.”

Hechlinski urged students to lock their doors, leave porch lights on, use alarm systems and make friends with neighbors for safety.

“SBPD works closely with Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and landlords to put on safety talks,” he said. “For the last two years we’ve worked closely with student government with the Student Crime Watch. It puts out announcements of crimes against students to keep them informed of situations.”

Through Student Crime Watch, officers from SBPD and NDSP post alerts about crimes in the local area on the off-campus student website. Police posted two alerts earlier this month about a student robbery Aug. 17 and a home invasion Aug. 19.

Student body president Patrick McCormick said student government is committed to increasing the safety of students both on and off campus.

Student government will host a safety summit with local officials at the Irish Green on Aug. 31. McCormick said the summit would be an opportunity for students to learn about safety and to ask questions of local law enforcement.

Another available resource is the “Good Neighbor Guide,” which provides students with advice for living in off-campus neighborhoods.

“This goes beyond student safety,” McCormick said. “This is about the safety of the community, and working on the former will improve the latter. The best thing to keep yourself safe is to be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut.”

Student body vice president Brett Rocheleau said new local laws would also help improve overall safety.

“There was a no-texting-while-driving law passed in Indiana over the summer,” Rocheleau said. “Operation Pull Over is also going on through Sep. 5. Police officers are setting up roadblocks and checking for intoxicated driving.”

The South Bend Common Council also passed a reform for the city’s taxi laws Monday, Rocheleau said.

“This is an even safer way for students to get off campus,” McCormick said. “Another option is the 7A Transpo route, sponsored by student government. We hope students take advantage of the safe transportation student government is providing.”

Roheleau noted that student arrests in South Bend were a huge problem last fall, but he said police have not yet arrested any students during this school year.

“We’re working with SBPD to improve the situation from last year,” he said.

McCormick said his administration is open to any questions or concerns felt by students.

“We can’t predict the future, but we can assure each and every student they’re safe on campus or off,” he said.