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CCAC focuses on student safety in South Bend

| Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Just three weeks ago, the city of South Bend welcomed back thousands of students to the community.

With the start of the new school year comes an influx of business and events in and around the area, as students host house parties, seek out jobs and tailgate for football games.

The Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) met Tuesday afternoon in the city government office for the first time this academic year. The panel — which consists of city leaders, law enforcement officers and residents of South Bend, in addition to students and administrators from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College — meets once a month to discuss ways to foster a positive relationship between students and the local community.

Students, administrators and city officials all highlighted safety as a primary focus for the upcoming weeks.

Notre Dame student government is working to introduce two new initiatives — SafeRides and SafeBars — to compliment and expand upon SafeBouND, the rebranded campus transportation service, student body vice president Becca Blais said.

For the SafeRides program, Blais said student government hopes to form a partnership with Uber to provide discounted rides for students in the area traveling back to their housing at night. The SafeBars program would aim to provide bystander intervention training to bartenders and bar owners in the South Bend community, an extra layer of safety for students who participate in the local nightlife scene.

“Those two programs, we are just now beginning to negotiate and look into,” Blais said.

The group voiced concerns about sexual assault and violence on campuses, particularly during the first six weeks of the school year.

Saint Mary’s student body president Emma McCarthy said the tri-campus community should aim to be a national model.

United, the three colleges could make a difference, Blais said.

“With the three of us, we can stand together and really make a statement for the rest of the United States,” she said. “It will go from here, to the ACC, to the rest of the country.”

Dan Allen, off-campus liaison for the University, said a record number of students chose not to live in the residence halls this year, raising other safety concerns. More than 20 percent of students have moved to apartments or houses off campus.

For example, two burglars have been reported in Legacy Village since the start of the school year, Major Dean Chandler of the Saint Joseph County Police said. In both cases, residents left their doors unlocked.

Both Chandler and Robert Hammer of the South Bend Police Department encouraged students to remember general safety tips.

“We know that problems occur throughout the school year,” Hammer said. “We’re here in support of the students. We want to make sure everyone’s safe.”

The group also briefly discussed nuisance violations involving students and ideas for programming and promotions to expose students to downtown businesses.

The next CCAC meeting will take place in October at Holy Cross College.

Since its inception in 2008, the committee has provided an outlet for both new ideas and feedback, city council attorney Kathy Cekanski-Farrand said.

“This forum gives a great opportunity for so many offices and individuals at all levels to cut through some of the red tape that you might see otherwise,” she said. “When issues are raised, we can address them quickly, working with the administration and with the councilmembers that are here.”

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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