Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | In response to the spike in crime throughout Norwood and Evanston, Xavier Police has increased patrols and cooperated with the Cincinnati Police force as a whole to better ensure students’ and residents’ safety.
The Xavier community is no stranger to crime. However, throughout the past few months, students and residents alike have witnessed a noticeable uptick. That spike became even more personal when a Xavier student was assaulted and robbed last week.
Though the student is safe and recovering from the attack, according to Student Government Association (SGA) President Zeina Farhat, the incident increased fear amongst students. That, coupled with the two shootings that took place this past weekend, led to a meeting among Xavier University Police (XUPD) Chief Joseph Milek, Farhat and SGA Vice Presidents Eduardo Patron and Ryan Fitzgerald to address the crimes as well as the department’s response to them.
“When a Xavier student was involved, there was a feeling that perhaps students were being targeted, which Chief (Milek) dispelled,” Patron said. “It affected our community, and there was an upspike, and that brought it to our attention, but then when an actual Xavier student was affected, it made us anxious to get together.”
With the spike in activity, XUPD has enacted its own measures and cooperated with other organizations in the surrounding community to help restore confidence and a sense of security, both on and off campus.
Milek explains that the spike began with a series of robberies at UDF stores. The robberies were not specific to Norwood but plagued the entire city as well as northern Kentucky.
Milek notes that the robberies did not target any Xavier-affiliated persons but rather specific businesses. The suspects waited until the stores were vacant and then made their move. Nevetheless, within the last week, several arrests were made, and according to Milek, the incidents seem to have halted.
No sooner did the robberies cease, however, than crime spiked in Evanston, a neighborhood that encloses much of campus and had enjoyed a relatively low crime rate up until last week.
“We had the safety committee meeting with Captain (James) Gramke from District 2 last week, and he was talking about, you know, ‘Evanston is awesome, crime’s down, we haven’t had any problems at all,’ and I thanked him in a meeting where I said, ‘you know as soon as you said that, everything happened.’” Milek said. “But it was. Really, for the past two years, Evanston’s been very quiet…and then overnight, literally overnight, we had a number of incidents that took place.”
The first incident in question was the aforementioned assault of a student. Milek personally has followed up with the student several times and expressed amazement at his or her concern for the rest of the student body.
The second incident was a shooting that took place early Saturday morning. It was not believed to be connected to the assault, and a Public Safety Notice was issued. The third incident was a homicide that took place early Monday morning on the 1800 block of Rutland Avenue toward Trimble Avenue, which is close to Dana’s Gardens. Again, a Public Safety Notice was issued.
The last incident in particular sparked fear amongst students, and SGA senators expressed concern that they did not receive a notification from XU Alert Me. Farhat says that this was actually the first question she directed toward Milek during their meeting.
In short, an XU Alert Me is issued only when an incident is deemed an immediate threat to students. In the case of the homicide, the suspect was taken into custody and the weapon recovered. In other words, for all intents and purposes, the incident was handled, and there was no threat to Xavier students. Thus, a Public Safety Notice was given so as to inform students of the incident but not cause any unnecessary alarm.
In addition to getting answers like that, the discussion resulted in a campus-wide message to reiterate that the crimes do not target Xavier or any specific individuals, explain the differences among XU Alert Me, Public Safety Notices and Timely Warnings and list available resources.
Before the meeting took place, XUPD officers went door-knocking to spread word of the crime spike. Officers noted that this effort drew a positive response from residents in particular.
“Quite frankly, the community members, I think, were pretty much blown away that we cared about them and went and did that,” Milek said.
The door-knocking also showed officers that they were largely unaware of where exactly students live off campus, which, in combination with the meeting with the SGA executives, has resulted in three main responses.
The first comes in the form of increased patrol activity, which has impressed even Milek. He cites an example where the report of shots fired led to 12 different patrol cars coming to the scene.
“I’ve been a police officer for 22 years with Cincinnati, and I can tell you that I’ve never seen anything like it,” Milek said.
Along those same lines, Cincinnati Police District 2 held an “all hands on deck” meeting, in which 30 different units agreed to focus their attention specifically on the Evanston area. This means more bike and police car patrols in addition to seeing more officers on campus.
“I’ve also welcomed (the officers) to our campus, because I think the more our students interact with the Cincinnati officers and the Norwood officers, the safer that they’re going to feel,” Milek said.
Second, a portable light was installed at the corner of Brooks Avenue and Clarion Avenue, where some of the activity has been concentrated. Though the light will remain there as long as it as needed, Milek advises against being lulled into a false sense of security and asserted that students should still remain alert and follow the normal precautions of walking in groups, avoiding shortcuts and utilizing the police escort services as necessary.
Finally, the Norwood Council has formed a committee comprised of members of XUPD and the Office of Student Affairs, other administrators and members of Norwood Police and Fire to work together to address the issues and formulate a response.
Milek explains that once students learn of these measures, they express a greater sense of security. Parents who call with similar concerns have the same reaction.
“Some of this isn’t very flattering for Xavier, not that it’s connected to Xavier in any way, but the response by our students is ‘I know that I can pick up the phone,’ ‘I know that the officers care,’ ‘I know that I can get an escort,’” Milek said. “Hearing that and seeing that really does my heart good, especially during a time when so much effort and stress has been put in, so that’s awesome.”
All three agreed that a big takeaway was the need for a better system of communicating information to students, specifically about XUPD’s role in responding to incidents like those that transpired.
“It was kind of disconcerting to think that students didn’t think we were doing anything, especially when we’re logging 16 hours a day,” Milek said. “…There’s got to be a better way for me to (communicate), and I’ll be exploring that.”
Farhat says this is where SGA comes into play — the executives’ relationship with the chief helps bring issues like that of communication to the forefront.
“We are students first, and we will fight for students,” Farhat said. “We put our concerns in front of Chief (Milek). (XUPD is) doing things; it’s just a matter of getting information out there.”
Ultimately, with the message sent out to the student body and greater communication, Milek hopes to assure students of their well-being both on and off campus.
“That’s my overarching goal right now: to reduce fear and instill more confidence so that our students aren’t anxious, and they’re able to relax and they’re able to study and perform and concentrate on the things I think they should be concentrating on,” Milek said.
By: Ellen Siefke ~Managing Editor~